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FRANKLIN 



THE 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

MMNMMMH' 

GRIFFIN 



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:.:^\:\-.< ' !>. i. iiiVr. 





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COPYRIGHT, 1907 
BY SCOTT, FORESMAN AND COMPANY 

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PRESS OF 
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PREFATORY NOTE 

With the exception of one or two brief omissions, 
the present text of Franklin's Autobiography repre- 
sents that document exactly as it left the hands of the 
author, being a reproduction of the original auto- 
graph, first printed by Mr. John Bigelow. My hearty 
thanks are due Mr. Bigelow and his publishers, the 
J. B. Lippincott Co., for permission to use their auto- 
graph text. 



CONTENTS 

PAGE 

Prefatory Note 5 

Introduction: 

I. Franklin and his Times 9 

II. The Autobiography 18 

Bibliography 25 

The Composition and Subsequent History of 

the Autobiography 27 

Text 29 



INTRODUCTION 

I. Franklin and His Times 

Benjamin Franklin lived in an age deeply interested 
in politics, science, industry, and philanthropy; in an age 
which, as a result, has contributed, in no small measure, 
to the abundant material prosperity of to-day. In all 
these varied activities of his time Franklin participated, 
but more particularly in two of the most engrossing, 
science and politics. 

In the domain of politics Franklin's age witnessed 
the change from the ancient era of absolutism to the 
modern era of democracy. In 1706, the year of his 
birth, every leading nation Gf Europe, save England, 
lived under a despotic form of government and cherished 
the traditional notion of the Divine Right of Kings; in 
1790, the year of his death, America had already cast 
off the yoke of tyranny, France was soon to follow, and 
the new doctrine of the Rights of Men had already 
come into practical operation. During the period 
of political transformation that intervened Franklin 
stood forth as the unwavering champion of liberty, the 
hater of tyranny and oppression. In the long period 
of colonial discontent that preceded the American 
Revolution, in the dark hours of the Revolution itself, 
and in the perplexing period of the formation of the 

9 



10 INTRODUCTION 

Union that followed, he devoted his best energies 
the cause of American independence and to the elev 
tion of his country to a front rank among the nations 
of the world. 

Franklin's age likewise witnessed many new develop- 
ments in the field of science. In 1706 botany, chem- 
istry, zoology, and mineralogy were in their infancy, 
and none of the labor-saving contrivances used in our 
modern factories had as yet made their appearance. 
By 1790 Linnseus in Sweden and Buff on in France had 
already made important improvements in the classi- 
fication of plants, animals, and minerals; in England 
Priestly had discovered oxygen and Arkwright had 
invented the cotton-spinning frame. In the scientific 
no less than in the political life of his century Franklin 
played a conspicuous part, investigating with important 
results the laws that govern wdnds and tides, the con- 
sumption of smoke in chimneys and of fuel in stoves, 
the increase in population, and the health of the human 
body, and demonstrating by his famous kite experi- 
ment the identity of lightning and electricity. 

Franklin did most for human liberty during the 
years in which, from 1757 to 1785, he served his 
country as diplomatic agent in England and France; 
he made his most important scientific discoveries dur- 
ing the years in which, from 1723 to 1757, he per- 
formed many useful labors as printer and promoter of 
public enterprises in Philadelphia. But of no less inter- 
est to the student of human nature were those earlier 
years in which, from 1706 to 1723, he gained as a boy 
in Boston certain impressions which were destined to 



THE LIFE OF FRANKLIN 11 

determine the direction and character of his subsequent 
career. 

BOYHOOD IN BOSTON 

Franklin was born in the city of Boston in early 
colonial days, before the coming struggle with Great 
Britain had turned men's minds from the pulpit and 
the meeting-house to the forum and the battle-field. In 
Franklin's youth men were too much absorbed in the 
affairs of the future life to take thought of the concerns 
of this life; too much preoccupied in conflict with a super- 
natural antagonist to spare energy for combat with an 
earthly foe. This perpetual warfare with sin not infre- 
quently resulted in acts of bigotry and fanaticism. Only 
fourteen years before Franklin's birth witches had 
been publicly hanged in the neighboring town of Salem, 
and in his boyhood the stocks, pillory, and whipping- 
post still warned the ungodly of the penalties of lying, 
stealing, and Sabbath breaking. Jonathan Edwards had 
not yet begun to preach the terrors of infant damnation, 
and the veteran Puritan, Cotton Mather, was still de- 
nouncing the fashionable follies of long hair and hooped- 
petticoats. Not the least devout of Mather's congre- 
gation was Franklin's father, Josiah, the descendant 
of a long line of God-fearing ancestors who for centuries 
had opposed the exercise of arbitrary authority in 
church and state. In the year 1682 Josiah Franklin 
had fled from religious persecution in England and 
settled in Boston, where he married a second wife, 
Abiah Folger, and increased his family to seventeen 
children, of whom Benjamin was the tenth and 



12 INTRODUCTION 

youngest son. This Josiah Franklin, being a regular 
church attendant, one who, in the words of Samuel 
Sewall, " pitched the tune and led prayers at meeting," 
obliged his son to attend three services on Sunday and 
daily prayers on week days. 

Bui to this Puritan discipline the younger Franklin 
did not take kindly, and found frequent occasion to 
object to the pious practices of his father's household. 
When, on one occasion, Josiah repeated a long grace at 
table the boy remarked with characteristic irreverence, 
"I think, father, if you were to say grace over the whole 
cask, once for all, it would be a vast saving of time.'* 
Nor were these religious exercises the only duties to 
which the youthful Franklin took exception. When 
Josiah undertook to teach Benjamin his own trade of 
tallow-chandler, the younger Franklin objected to the 
monotonous routine of his father's shop and threatened 
to go to sea. When, to prevent the execution of this de- 
sign, the anxious father bound Franklin apprentice to 
an elder brother James, printer of the Boston Gazette, 
fresh difficulties soon arose. James Franklin, having 
subsequently undertaken the printing of a second 
newspaper, the New England Courant, published mat- 
ter obnoxious to the government, was imprisoned, and 
liberated only on the understanding that he should 
henceforth cease to print the libelous sheet. In this 
dilemma James relinquished the paper to Benjamin, 
openly cancelling his brother's indenture but secretly 
preparing a new one in order to retain his services. 
For a time all went well, until James, emboldened by the 
success of his strategy, ventured to produce the new 



THE LIFE OF FRANKLIN 13 

indenture. A quarrel ensued, and Franklin, exaspe- 
rated alike by the oppression of government and the 
trickery cf his brother, turned his back upon the city 
of his birth and sought fresh fields of activity in the more 
tolerant city of Philadelphia. 

YEARS OF PUBLIC LIFE AND SCIENTIFIC 
INVESTIGATION IN PHILADELPHIA 

Franklin's arrival in the metropolis of Pennsylvania 
marks the opening of his professional life as printer 
and of his public life as scientist and promoter of various 
civic and administrative enterprises. In the Quaker 
city of Philadelphia he found conditions which were 
much better suited to the development of his essentially 
practical gifts than in the Puritan city of Boston. Boston 
was conservative, aristocratic, and orthodox; Philadel- 
phia progressive, democratic, and liberal. Boston still 
maintained old-fashioned educational methods. The 
curriculum of Harvard College included no science 
or modern language, being limited to Latin, Greek, 
Hebrew, and such kindred subjects as would fit 
a man for the ministry. The students were enrolled, 
not alphabetically, but in order of social precedence. 
A similar conservatism characterized the attitude of 
Boston towards science. Most Bostonians objected 
to the use of inoculation against small-pox as an attempt 
to interfere with the operations of divine providence, 
and not a few afterwards stigmatized the electrical 
experiments of Franklin as "an impious attempt to 
control the artillery of heaven. " Philadelphia, on the 
other hand, though without a college, offered, under 



14 INTRODUCTION 

the tolerant administration of the Penns, deck 
encouragement to science. Here James Logan ami 
John Bartram, the naturalists, Benjamin Rush, the 
physician, and David Rittenhouse, the astronomer, 
had either made or were soon to make important dis- 
coveries in their respective fields of investigation. 

Into the progressive life of a community thus con- 
genial to his practical tastes, Franklin now threw 
himself with all the ardor of a youth intent upon making 
the most of his opportunities. Having resumed his 
trade as printer's apprentice, he early acquired a press 
of his own, outstripped his two rivals Bradford and 
Keimer, purchased Keimer's Universal Instructor, and 
conducted that newspaper, under the title of the Phila- 
delphia Gazette, with unexampled success, instituted a 
second periodical entitled Poor Richards Almanac, 
married a wife, and, finally, in 1748, secure in a com- 
fortable income, abandoned printing in order to devote 
himself to "philosophical studies and amusements." 

But busy as these years of fortune-making were, 
Franklin still found time for other less personal con- 
cerns. In the interest of his fellow-citizens he organ- 
ized a Junto, or debating club, a subscription library, 
the first of its kind in America, a night watch, a volun- 
teer fire company, a colonial militia, a street-cleaning 
department, and a school for the youth of Pennsylvania, 
afterwards the University of Pennsylvania. In the 
interests of science he performed various experiments 
the results of which he embodied in essays or in 
inventions designed for the benefit of the public 
His scientific publications, which are well written 



THE LIFE OF FRANKLIN 15 

[ display evidence of accurate observation and 
id induction, have to do with such topics as 
idry Maritime Observations , Making Rivers Navi- 
le, the Stilling of Waves by Means of Oil, the Causes 
Earthquakes, etc.; his inventions include the globe- 
ip with an air vent below to prevent the accumulation 
01 smoke in the chimney, the open stove with drafts 
so arranged as to economize heat and save waste in the 
consumption of fuel, and the lightning-rod. The globe- 
lamp was henceforth employed for lighting the streets 
of Philadelphia, the Franklin stove is still in use to-day, 
and the lightning-rod was soon erected on many public 
buildings not only in America but also in England 
and France. His experiments were conducted with 
the simplest apparatus, his famous experiment for draw- 
ing lightning from the skies being performed by means 
of a kite, a silk ribbon, and a key. Before his depar- 
ture for England in 1757, Franklin founded the 
American Philosophical Society, which survives as a 
lasting memorial of his scientific activity. 

In recognition of his many public services Frank- 
lin was successively made clerk of the Pennsylvania 
Assembly, member and afterwards speaker of that 
Assembly, postmaster-general of the colonies, and 
finally, in the year 1757, agent to England to represent 
the Pennsylvania colonists in their struggles with the 
Proprietors. This last appointment marks his entrance 
upon the more extended domain of international politics. 
When Franklin reached England he was greeted not only 
as a publicist of more or less provincial repute but as a 
scientist who by his kite experiment had conferred 



16 INTRODUCTION 

a permanent benefit upon mankind. Franklin had 
already, in the words of Turgot, "snatched lightning 
from the skies"; it now remained for him to fulfil the 
second clause of that famous epigram, and to wrest 
"the sceptre from the hands of tyrants." 

YEARS OF FOREIGN RESIDENCE AS DIPLOMATIC 
AGENT IN ENGLAND AND FRANCE 

Between 1757 and 1785 Franklin was sent abroad 
on three separate missions on each of which he won 
important diplomatic triumphs. On the first of these 
missions (1757-1762) he won a victory for his Penn- 
sylvania constituents in the long-standing dispute 
with regard to the right of the Assembly to tax 
the hereditary estates of the Penn family; on the 
second (1764-1775) he helped to secure the repeal 
of the Stamp Act and other oppressive measures 
of the British Parliament; on the third (1776-1785) 
he negotiated, as representative of the United States in 
France, a Treaty of Alliance with that country and 
afterwards, as minister plenipotentiary, a Treaty of 
Peace with Great Britain. On all these missions Frank- 
lin conducted the affairs of his country with a tact- 
fulness that won for him high esteem in England and 
France. On his second mission to England, during which 
he represented Pennsylvania at first but afterwards 
Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Georgia as well, he han- 
dled the delicate relations between the colonies and the 
mother country with a firmness and sagacity that excited 
the admiration of Tories no less than of Whigs. At first 
he was in favor of retaining union with England, and 



THE LIFE OF FRANKLIN 17 

even on the eve of the Revolution he opposed separation 
in the belief that by a little mutual forbearance all diffi- 
culties could at length be amicably settled. But no 
sooner had war been declared than he threw in his lot 
with his fellow-countrymen and angrily upbraided a 
former English friend, Strahan, as one who had "doomed 
[his] country to destruction." But it was in France, 
after the outbreak of the American Revolution, that 
Franklin reached the zenith of his popularity. Here he 
was enthusiastically hailed as the friend of liberty and 
lover of mankind. His life at the Parisian suburb 
of Passy, where lodgings had been offered him by 
Monsieur de Chaumont, was one prolonged success- 
ion of fetes and entertainments. Here statesmen, 
philosophers, and ladies of fashion vied with one 
another in paying him compliments, and rich and 
poor alike delighted to honor the prophet of those 
republican ideas which they themselves were soon to 
put into practice. Medals, snuff-boxes, and bracelets 
bore his likeness, and on one memorable occasion he was 
called upon to embrace the great Voltaire to the intense 
delight of the onlookers, who exclaimed, with Gallic 
fondness for a classical parallel, "How charming it is to 
see Solon and Sophocles embrace I" But these nu- 
merous attentions, which would have turned the head 
of a vain man, were estimated at .their true worth 
by Franklin, who preserved throughout his residence 
in France a republican simplicity in dress and 
manners, and never let the distractions of the 
French capital divert his mind from the various pressing 
official duties that he was called upon to discharge. 



18 INTRODUCTION 

When on one occasion he was granted an audience 1 
Louis XVI, he appeared before that monarch in 1 
usual fur hat and spectacles. And throughout his di 
lomatic life in France he conducted himself with patien 
and cheerfulness in seasons of ill-health, with hop - 
fulness in years of national despair, and, final] 
with consummate skill and adroitness procured tl 
friendship of France at a time when the lack of h 
support would have proved fatal to the cause 
American independence. Nor did his public labo 
end with his stay in France. Upon his return 
America, with health impaired and old age hea^ 
upon him, he sacrificed a not unnatural inclinatk 
to devote the final years of his life (1785-1790) to 
a well earned rest, and continued to serve his country, 
at first as President of Pennsylvania and afterwards 
as one of the drafters of the Federal Constitution. At 
length, full of years and honors, he died in Philadel- 
phia, April 17, 1790. 

II. The Autobiography 

Although Franklin never made writing a chief aim 
of his life, finding more satisfaction in the capacity of 
a doer of good than of a maker of books, and never pub- 
lished what he wrote unless at the solicitation of friends 
or in order to promote some immediate practical end, 
he nevertheless left behind him at his death written mat- 
ter that fills no less than ten bulky volumes. Of these 
writings a portion is devoted to the exposition of his 
political and economic theories, another portion, to the 
explanation of scientific phenomena, and a third — 



THE LIFE OF FRAXKLIX 19 

the largest and most interesting portion — to the expres- 
sion of his views with regard to many little moral 
matters that "come home to men's business and 
bosoms/' 

In thus devoting so large a portion of his writings to 
private matters Franklin was following a practice 
well nigh universal in his day. Almost every 
great man of that time felt himself called upon to 
declare his personal opinion with regard to the 
various moral and ethical questions of his age. 
Thus Johnson records his views with regard to mat- 
ters of belief and conduct in his essays and in his 
memorable conversations preserved by Boswell; Gibbon 
sets forth his opinions with regard to men and manners 
in his memoirs of his own life; ^Yalpole discloses his 
position on minor points of morality in letters to his 
friends; Chesterfield lays down his ideas as to the 
deportment proper to a young man of fashion in letters 
to his son; while Steele and Addison fill the pages of 
their essays with graphic illustrations of the moral 
failings and delinquencies of their contemporaries. 
It is accordingly not strange that Franklin should 
have written frequently upon points of morals and 
conduct. 

This third portion of Franklin's literary work 
comprises essays in which he either, as in the 
Silence Dogood and Busybody papers, proceeds, much 
after the manner of Steele and Addison, to ridicule the 
social abuses of his countrymen, or, as in Poor Richard's 
Almanac, to preach, in a manner entirely individual 
and peculiar to himself, lessons of thrift and frugality;. 



20 INTRODUCTION 

bagatelles, or humorous sketches in which, as in An 
Edict by the King of Prussia, the Ephemera, and The 
Whistle, he indulges a whimsical vein and treats serious 
subjects in a tone of mock gravity; letters to friends 
(Strahan, Vaughan, Paine, and Mary Stevenson, after- 
wards Mrs. Hewson) in which he not infrequently 
discloses his moral and religious opinions ; and, finally, 
that most interesting and personally significant of all his 
writings, the Autobiography, in which he unfolds the 
earlier history of his life and the development of his 
mind and character. Throughout all the works that 
compose this division of his writings Franklin affords us 
many glimpses of his attitude towards the manners 
and morals of his day, but in none is this attitude so 
vividly conveyed or so abundantly illustrated as in the 
Autobiography. 

As a means of revealing character autobiography pos- 
sesses certain natural advantages over the two sister arts 
of letter-writing and biography, with which in many 
respects it is closely allied. Letters, while they may 
give quite as intimate a revelation of the life and person- 
ality of their author as autobiography, are necessarily 
the product of occasion and for that reason reveal but 
scattered fragments of their author's life, not, as auto- 
biography, that life in its totality. Again, biography, 
while it presents the life of the man of whom it treats 
in its entirety, and frequently, also, in truer perspective 
than autobiography, is, after all, the work, not of the 
man portrayed, but of another, and fails, accordingly, to 
disclose personality with the directness and authenticity 
of autobiography. These passages in which Boswell 



THE LIFE OF FRANKLIN 21 

and Lockart allow Johnson and Scott to speak in their 
own persons convey a sense of lifelikeness and reality 
in comparison with which the biographer's attempts 
at characterization appear pale and ineffectual. 

The Autobiography of Franklin combines the vivid 
personal coloring characteristic of letters with no 
little of the harmony, finish, and sense of proportion 
characteristic of biography. The Autobiography does 
not, to be sure, give a record of Franklin's entire life, 
since it ends abruptly with his entrance upon his diplo- 
matic career in 1757. But for the years which it cov- 
ers, that is, the years of his boyhood in Boston and ear- 
lier manhood in Philadelphia, the record given is one 
which unites the frankness and sincerity of the letter- 
writer with no small measure of the objectivity and dis- 
interestedness of the biographer. In it Franklin has 
comparatively little to say of the outward history of his 
public life, very little of his striking achievements in 
science, nothing at all of those conspicuous diplomatic 
services which came after the period of which it treats ; 
he has much to say of the inward history of his private 
life, of the means by which he regulated his personal 
conduct in youth and of the spirit in which he under- 
took the various projects and reforms of his citizen days 
in Philadelphia. From it we learn of the many prac- 
tical tests by which the author undertakes to distinguish 
between right and wrong, of the ludicrously matter-of- 
fact way in which he attempts the essentially spiritual 
task of " arriving at moral perfection/' of the studious 
contrivances by which he labors not only to practice 
industry and thrift but "to avoid all appearances to the 



22 INTRODUCTION 

contrary/' and of the many artifices by which he man- 
ager to outwit a political opponent or pass a measure 
of reform. Nor do we, at the same time, fail to find in 
it abundant exemplification of his active benevolence 
and love of humanity, of his generosity to friends and 
his interest in charitable and philanthropic enterprises. 
In short, the author has presented a graphic narrative of 
the formative stages of his life which charms us by its 
artlessness and candor and satisfies us by its continuity 
and completeness. From it we gain the notion of a 
singularly distinct and compact personality, of a man 
whose acts were the result, not of chance impulse, 
but of careful deliberation and mature premeditation, 
and whose faults and virtues alike proceeded from a 
genuine passion for truth and sincerity. 

If the contents of the Autobiography serve thus to 
convey the impression of a very definite personality, 
the style in which it is written confirms and intensifies 
that impression. Towards the opening of the Auto- 
biography Franklin tells us that he is unable to recall 
the time when he could not read, and relates with 
what eagerness he devoured, in his early Boston days, 
Bunyan, Plutarch, Defoe, and whatever other authors 
. he found in his father's library or could buy or borrow. 
At length he chanced upon a copy of Addison's 
Spectator. Fascinated by the easy grace of that 
polished essayist, he accepted him as his model of 
excellence, and employing a method similar to that 
afterwards used with such happy results by Stevenson, 
made " short hints of the sentiments" of an essay, laid 
the book aside, endeavored to expand these hints to the 



THE LIFE OF FRANKLIN 23 

fulness of the original, compared his results with that 
original, and was pleased to "find that [he] might in 
time come to be a tolerable English writer of which 
[he] was extreamly ambitious." This practice was 
abundantly justified by the event. Although Franklin 
never attained the classic elegance of Addison, he at 
least avoided the deliberate mannerisms of that author; 
and, il he failed to master the subtler modulations of 
Addisonian prose, he at any rate learned from the 
author of the Spectator that which, for his own purposes 
at least, was more important, the use of clear, concise, 
and effective English. His stylistic affiliations are, 
indeed, rather with the plain, natural diction of his 
earlier contemporaries, Defoe and Swift, than with the 
more ornate and artificial phraseology of their con- 
temporary Addison and of his own immediate contem- 
porary Johnson. Like Swift and Defoe, Franklin uses 
few figures of speech, says what he has to say in a plain, 
business-like fashion, and by perfectly adapting style 
to thought secures the effects without the appearance 
of art. 

The massive personality of Franklin dominates and 
overshadows the eighteenth century. Born at the open- 
ing of that century and living to within a few years of 
its close, he exemplifies with singular fidelity the pre- 
vailing characteristics of his age. He possesses its serene 
and complaisant philosophy, its imperturbable good 
humor and unfailing good sense. He shares its defects 
and its excellences. He typifies its cool rationalism, 
untouched with passion, its worldliness and lack of 



24 INTRODUCTION 

spirituality; he embodies its genius for science, politics, 
and constructive statesmanship. If Franklin suffers 
from the imaginative limitations of his century, if 
he lacks the spiritual vision of a Thomas a Kempis 
and the lofty idealism of a Carlyle, if he lays more 
stress upon the material than upon the spiritual side 
of human nature, he at any rate shares with other 
moralists of the Age of Reason an intense intellectual 
curiosity that prompted new achievements in the prac- 
tical domains of science and politics, a passion for fact 
and reality that takes from his writings all taint of gross 
egotism and mawkish sentimentality, and a boundless 
vitality that finds expression in his cheerful optimism 
and his unselfish devotion to the good of humanity. 
Whatever we may think of the spiritual perception of 
the man who attempted to apply to religion the same 
tests of usefulness as to science and politics, and who 
proposed to fit out the kingdom of heaven with lords, 
a ministry, and levee days, we cannot at any rate 
withhold our admiration from a man who having 
arisen, "through diligence in his calling," to "stand 
before kings," devoted his genius for affairs, not to 
selfish and personal ends, but to the advancement of 
human knowledge and the "relief of man's estate. ,, 



BIBLIOGRAPHY 

The standard edition of Franklin's Autobiography 
is that issued in three volumes by John Bigelow under 
the title The Life of Benjamin Franklin Written by Him- 
self and published by the J. B. Lippincott Co., Philadel- 
phia, 1905. An earlier one-volume edition of the same 
text was issued by the same editor and publisher 
in 1868. A handy edition of Poor Richard's 
Almanac occurs in The Riverside Literature Series, 
No. 24 (Houghton, Mifflin & Co., 1887), and an edition 
of some of the best of Franklin's essays and letters in a 
little volume by U. Waldo Cutler entitled Selections from 
the writings of Benjamin Franklin (Crowell & Co., 1905). 
The best editions of Franklin's complete works are by 
John Bigelow (New York, 1887) and by Albert H. 
Smyth (Philadelphia, 1905-). 

Many interesting studies have been made of the 
various aspects of Franklin's life and character. He 
is presented as an author by John B. McMaster in 
Benjamin Franklin as a Man of Letters in the American 
Men of Letters series (Houghton, Mifflin & Co., 1887); 
as a statesman and diplomatist by John T. Morse in 
Benjamin Franklin in the American Statesmen series 
(Houghton Mifflin & Co., 1898); and as a Jack of all 
trades by Paul Leicester Ford in The Many-sided Frank- 
lin (The Century Co.-, 1899). A full and detailed study 
of the period in which Franklin lived is to be found in 

25 



26 INTRODUCTION 

James Parton's Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin, 
two volumes (New York, 1864), and of the influences 
by which he was surrounded during his residence in 
France in Franklin in France by E. E. Hale and E. E. 
Hale, Jr. (Boston, 1887). Woodrow Wilson gives in 
an introduction to an edition of the Autobiography 
published by the Century Co. (New York, 1901) a 
brief but sympathetic appreciation of the literary 
merits of the Autobiography. An interesting contrast is 
drawn between the popular reputations of Franklin 
and Washington by William MacDonald in the Atlantic 
Monthly for October, 1905. 

Paul Leicester Ford has published a good Franklin 
bibliography (New York, 1889), and J. M. Hayes a 
useful chronology of the chief events in Franklin's life 
in the Publications of the American Philosophical 
Society (Philadelphia, 1904). 



THE COMPOSITION AND SUBSEQUENT HISTORY 
OF THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

The Autobiography furnishes a characteristic instance of 
Franklin's dilatory methods of literary composition. The 
author wrote this fragmentary account of his life on four 
separate occasions. He began the Autobiography at Twy- 
ford, England, in 1771 and wrote on that occasion the 
portion of the work (pp. 29-130) that covers the first 
twenty-four years of his life and brings the narrative down to 
the year 1732, in which he founded the Philadelphia Library. 
The work was then laid aside, to be resumed at Passy, 
France, in 1784, and then only at the earnest solicitation of 
Abel James, Benjamin Vaughan, Le Veillard, and other 
friends. In this second portion (pp. 130-151) the author 
makes no advance in the record of the outward events of his 
life, but relates, certain resolutions he had formed at this 
time and their influence upon his inner life and character. 
Again the work was laid aside and again resumed, at Phila- 
delphia in 1788, three years after Franklin's final return to 
America. This third portion (pp. 151-262) carries the 
narrative down to the author's arrival in England in 1757. 
Finally, a fourth portion, comprising a few pages (pp. 262- 
268) which deal with the opening of Franklin's negotiations 
with the Proprietors, was added in 1789, the year preceding 
the author's death. Although the Autobiography was origi- 
nally intended by Franklin only for the perusal of his 
immediate family, this plan was gradually modified as the 
work proceeded, with the result that the last three portions 
are of a much less private and confidential character than 
the first. 

The story of the fortunes of the Autobiography after it 
left the hands of Franklin is a story of vicissitudes no less 
numerous than those which attended its composition. 
At the time of his death Franklin bequeathed all his papers, 

27 



28 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

including the Autobiography, to his grandson, William 
Temple Franklin. This grandson wasted much time in 
the preparation of these papers for publication, and it was 
not until the year 1817 that he issued the Autobiography 
in an incomplete edition of his grandfather's writings. In 
the meantime three earlier editions had already appeared. 
The first of these, a French translation of the first portion 
of the Autobiography, made by an unknown hand from an 
unidentified copy of the original, was surreptitiously pub- 
lished in Paris in 1791, the year immediately following 
Franklin's death. This pirated French translation was 
in 1793 retranslated and published in two separate 
English editions, one by Dr. Prince, often subsequently 
reprinted, and the other by Mr. Parsons. Moreover, 
the fourth edition, published by William Temple Frank- 
lin, was by no means an accurate reproduction of the 
original, being based, not upon the autograph, but upon a 
copy of that manuscript, made in 1789 at Franklin's re- 
quest by another grandson, Benjamin Franklin Bache, for 
presentation to the author's intimate friend, M. le Veillard, 
Mayor of Passy. This copy William Temple Franklin pro- 
cured from Madame le Veillard in exchange for the auto- 
graph, which thus passed out of the hands of the Franklin 
family. But the copy thus procured was not only incom- 
plete, lacking the fourth portion, which had not been 
written at the time the copy was made, but [was also 
very considerably altered by William Temple Franklin, 
who, in his preparation of the copy for the press, intro- 
duced no fewer than twelve hundred separate changes 
in the text. This very faulty version was reprinted by 
Jared Sparks in his 1840 edition of Franklin's Works. It 
was not until 1868, more than three-quarters of a century 
after Franklin's death, that the first edition of the entire 
four portions was printed from the original autograph by 
John Bigelow, who purchased the manuscript from M. de 
Senarmont. to whom it had been left by his grandfather, 
a grand nephew of M. le Veillard. 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 



Twyford, at the Bishop of St. Asaph's, 1771. 1 

Dear Son : 2 I have ever had pleasure in obtaining any 
little anecdotes of my ancestors. You may remember 
the inquiries I made among the remains of my relations 
when you were with me in England, and the journey I 
undertook for that purpose. Imagining it may be 
equally agreeable to you to know the circumstances of 
my life, many of which you are yet unacquainted with, 
and expecting the enjoyment of a week's uninterrupted 
leisure in my present country retirement, I sit down to 
w T rite them for you. To which I have besides some 
other inducements. Having emerged from the poverty 
and obscurity in which I was born and bred, to a state 
of affluence and some degree of reputation in the w^orld, 
and having gone so far through life with a considerable 
share of felicity, the conducing means I made use of, 
which with the blessing of God so well succeeded, my 
posterity may like to know, as they may find some of 

1 The first portion of the Autobiography, including pp. 29-130 of the 
present edition, was written at the country-seat of Bishop Shipley 
at Twyford, England, in 1771. 

2 Franklin originally intended his Autobiography solely for the 
perusal of his son, W T illiam Franklin, royal governor of New Jersey 
from 1762 to 1776. The scope of the work broadened, however, as time 
went on, with the result that the three later portions are addressed 
n' longer exclusively to his son but to the public at large. 



30 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

them suitable to their own situations, and therefore fit 
to be imitated. 

That felicity, when I reflected on it, has induced 
me sometimes to say, that were it offered to my choice, 
I should have no objection to a repetition of the same 
life from its beginning, only asking the advantages 
authors have in a second edition to correct some faults 
of the first. So I might, besides correcting the faults, 
change some sinister accidents and events of it for 
others more favorable. But though this were denied, 
I should still accept the offer. Since such a repetition 
is not to be expected, the next thing most like living 
one's life over again seems to be a recollection of that 
life, and to make that recollection as durable as possible 
by putting it down in writing. 

Hereby, too, I shall indulge the inclination so natural 
in old men, to be talking of themselves and their own 
past actions; and I shall indulge it without being tire- 
some to others, who, through respect to age, might 
conceive themselves obliged to give me a hearing, 
since this maybe read or not as any one pleases. And, 
lastly (I may as well confess it, since my denial of it 
will be believed by nobody), perhaps I shall a good 
deal gratify my own vanity. Indeed, I scarce ever 
heard or saw the introductory words, "Without vanity 
I may say," &c, but some vain thing immediately 
followed. Most people dislike vanity in others, what- 
ever share they have of it themselves; but I give it 
fair quarter wherever I meet with it, being persuaded 
that it is often productive of good to the possessor, 
and to others that are within his sphere of action; and 



/ 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 31 

therefore, in many cases, it would not be altogether 
absurd if a man were to thank God for his vanity 
among the other comforts of life. 

And now I speak of thanking God, I desire with 
all humility to acknowledge that I owe the mentioned 
happiness of my past life to His kind providence, 
which lead me to the means I used and gave them 
success. My belief of this induces me to hope, though 
I must not presume, that the same goodness will still 
be exercised toward me, in continuing that happiness, 
or enabling me to bear a fatal reverse, which I may 
experience as others have done; the complexion of my 
future fortune being known to Him only in whose 
power it is to bless to us even our afflictions. 

The notes one of my uncles (who had the same 
kind of curiosity in collecting family anecdotes) once 
put into my hands, furnished me with several par- 
ticulars relating to our ancestors. From these notes 
I learned that the family had lived in the same vil- 
lage, Ecton, in Northamptonshire, for three hundred 
years, and how much longer he knew not (perhaps 
from the time when the name of Franklin, that be- 
fore was the name of an order of people, 1 was assumed 
by them as a surname when others took surnames 
all over the kingdom), on a freehold of about thirty 
acres, aided by the smith's business, which had con- 
tinued in the family till his time, the eldest son being 
always bred to that business; a custom which he 
and my father followed as to their eldest sons. When 

1 In early English days the term franklin was applied to the less 
important landholders, of free but not noble birth. . 



32 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

I searched the registers at Ecton, I found an account 
of their births, marriages and burials from the year 
1555 only, there being no registers kept in that parish 
at any time preceding. By that register I perceived 
that I was the youngest son of the youngest son for 
five generations back. My grandfather Thomas, who 
was born in 1598, lived at Ecton till he grew too old 
to follow business longer, when he went to live with 
his son John, a dyer at Banbury, in Oxfordshire, 
with whom my father served an apprenticeship. There 
my grandfather died and lies buried. We saw his 
gravestone in 1758. His eldest son Thomas lived in 
the house at Ecton, and left it with the land to his 
only child, a daughter, who, with her husband, one 
Fisher, of Wellingborough, sold it to Mr. Isted, now 
lord of the manor there. My grandfather had four sons 
that grew up, viz.: Thomas, John, Benjamin and Josiah. 
I will give you what account I camof them, at this dis- 
tance from my papers, and if these are not lost in my 
absence, you will among them find many more particulars. 
Thomas was bred a smith under his father; but, 
being ingenious, and encouraged in learning (as all 
my brothers were) by an Esquire Palmer, then the 
principal gentleman in that parish, he qualified him- 
self for the business of scrivener; 1 became a con- 
siderable man in the county; was a chief mover of 
all public-spirited undertakings for the county or 
town of Northampton, and his own village, of which 
many instances were related of him; and much taken 
notice of and patronized by the then Lord Halifax. 

1 A drawer of legal documents, a notary-public. 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 33 

He died in 1702, January 6, old style, 1 just four years 
to a day before I was born. The account we received 
of his life and character from some old people at 
Ecton, I remember, struck you as something extra- 
ordinary, from its similarity to what you knew of 
mine. "Had he died on the same day," you said, 
"one might have supposed a transmigration." 

John was bred a dyer, I believe of woolens. 
Benjamin was bred a silk dyer, serving an appren- 
ticeship at London. He was an ingenious man. I 
remember him well, for when I was a boy he came 
over to my father in Boston, and lived in the house 
with us some years. He lived to a great age. His 
grandson, Samuel Franklin, now lives in Boston. He 
left behind him two quarto volumes, MS., of his 
own poetry, consisting of little occasional pieces 
addressed to his friends and relations, of which the 
following, sent to me, is a specimen. 2 He had formed 
a short-hand of his own, which he taught me, but, 
never practising it, I have now forgot it. I was named 
after this uncle, there being a particular affection 
between him and my father. He was very pious, a great 
attender of sermons of the best preachers, which he 
took down in his short-hand, and had with him many 



1 Or January 17, new style. A change in the calendar was made 
in 1582 by Pope Gregcny XIII, who, in order to make the calendar 
more nearly coincide with the natural year, added ten days to the 
date of the old oi Julian calendar and provided that the additional 
day of the Julian calendar be dropped in all centurial years, except- 
ing in 1600 and every fourth century thereafter. Thus in the eight- 
eenth century the discrepancy between the old and new stjie of reck- 
oning amounted to eleven days. 

2 Franklin failed to insert the specimen in his Autobiography. 



34 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

volumes of them. He was also much of a politician; 
too much, perhaps, for his station. There fell lately 
into my hands, in London, a collection he had made 
of all the principal pamphlets relating to public affairs, 
from 1641 to 1717; many of the volumes are wanting 
as appears by the numbering, but there still remain 
eight volumes in folio, and twenty-four in quarto and 
in octavo. A dealer in old books met with them, and 
knowing me by my sometimes buying of him, he brought 
them to me. It seems my uncle must have left them 
here when he went to America, which was above fifty 
years since. There are many of his notes in the margins. 

This obscure family of ours was early in the Ref- 
ormation, and continued Protestants through the 
reign of Queen Mary, when they were sometimes 
in danger of trouble on account of their zeal against 
popery. They had got an English Bible, and to 
conceal and secure it, it was fastened open with tapes 
under and within the rover of a joint-stool. When 
my great-great-grandfather read it to his family, he 
turned up the joint-stool upon his knees, turning over 
the leaves then under the tapes. One of the children 
stood at the door to give notice if he saw the apparitor 
coming, who was an officer of the spiritual court. 
In that case the stool was turned down again upon its 
feet, when the Bible remained concealed under it as 
before. This anecdote I had from my uncle Benjamin. 
The family continued all of the Church of England 
till about the end of Charles the Second's reign, when 
some of the ministers that had been outed 1 for non- 

1 Ejected from their livings. 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 35 

conformity holding conventicles in Northamptonshire, 
Benjamin and Josiah adhered to them, and so con- 
tinued all their lives: the rest of the family remained 
with the Episcopal Church. 

Josiah, my father, married young, and carried his 
wife with three children into New England, about 
1682. The conventicles having been forbidden by 
law, and frequently disturbed, induced some con- 
siderable men of his acquaintance to remove to that 
country, and he was prevailed with to accompany 
them thither, where they expected to enjoy their 
mode of religion with freedom. By the same wife 
he had four children more born there, and by a 
second wife ten more, in all seventeen; of which I 
remember thirteen sitting at one time at his table, 
who all grew up to be men and women, and mar- 
ried; I was the youngest son, and the youngest child 
but two, and was born in Boston, New England. 1 
My mother, the second wife, was Abiah Folger, 
daughter of Peter Folger, one of the first settlers of 
New England, of whom honorable mention is made 
by Cotton Mather, 2 in his church history of that 
country, entitled Magnalia Christi Americana, 3 as "a 
godly, learned Englishman" if I remember the words 

1 Franklin was born on Sunday, January 6, old style (January 
17, new style), 1706, and was baptized in the Old South Meeting- 
house on the same day, during a snow-storm. The house in which 
he was born stood on Milk Street, opposite the Old South Meeting- 
house; it was destroyed by fire in 1810. 

2 Cotton Mather (1663-1728), an indefatigable preacher and vol- 
uminous writer, was the last and greatest upholder of the Puritan 
theocracy in Boston. 

3 Christ's Mighty Works in America. 



36 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

rightly. I have heard that he wrote sundry small 
occasional pieces, but only one of them was printed, 
which I saw now many years since. It was written 
in 1675, in the home-spun verse of that time and 
people, and addressed to those then concerned in 
the government there. It was in favor of liberty of 
conscience, and in behalf of the Baptists, Quakers, 
and other sectaries that had been under persecution, 
ascribing the Indian wars, and other distresses that 
had befallen the country, to that persecution, as so 
many judgments of God to punish so heinous an 
offense, and exhorting a repeal of those uncharitable 
laws. The whole appeared to me as written with a 
good deal of decent plainness and manly freedom. 
The six concluding lines I remember, though I have 
forgotten the two first of the stanza; but the purport of 
them was, that his censures proceeded from good-will, 
and, therefore he would be known to be the author. 

. "Because to be a libeller (says he) 

I hate it with my heart; 
From Sherburne town, where now I dwell 

My name I do put here; 
Without offense your real friend, 

It is Peter Folgier." 

My elder brothers were all put apprentices to 
different trades. I was put to the grammar-school 1 
at eight years of age, my father intending to devote 
me, as the tithe of his sons, to the service of the Church. 
My early readiness in learning to read (which must 

1 In former days the grammar school was a school in which boys 
were prepared for college. 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 37 

have been very early, as I do not remember when 
I could not read), and the opinion of all his friends, 
that I should certainly make a good scholar, en- 
couraged him in this purpose of his. My uncle 
Benjamin, too, approved of it, and proposed to give 
me all his short-hand volumes of sermons, I suppose 
as a stock to set up with, if I would learn his character. 
I continued, however, at the grammar-school not quite 
one year, though in that time I had risen gradually 
from the middle of the class of that year to be the 
head of it, and farther was removed into the next 
class above it, in order to go with that into the third 
at the end of the year. But my father, in the mean 
time, from a view of the expense of a college education, 
which having so large a family he could not well 
afford, and the mean living many so educated were 
afterwards able to obtain — reasons that he gave to 
his friends in my hearing — altered his first intention, 
took me from the grammar-school, and sent me to a 
school for writing and arithmetic, kept by a then 
famous man, Mr. George Brownell, very successful 
in his profession generally, and that by mild, en- 
couraging methods. Under him I acquired fair 
writing pretty soon, but I failed in the arithmetic, 
and made no progress in it. At ten years old I was 
taken home to assist my father in his business, which 
was that of a tallow-chandler and sope-boiler; a busi- 
ness he was not bred to, but had assumed on his 
arrival in New England, and on finding his dying 
trade would not maintain his family, being in little 
request. Accordingly, I was employed in cutting 



38 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

wick for the candles, filling the dipping mold and the 
molds for cast candles, attending the shop, going of 
errands, etc. 

I disliked the trade, and had a strong inclination 
for the sea, but my father declared against it; how- 
ever, living near the water, I was much in and about 
it, learnt early to swim well, and to manage boats; 
and when in a boat or canoe with other boys, I was 
commonly allowed to govern, especially in any case 
of difficulty; and upon other occasions I was generally 
a leader among the boys, and sometimes led them 
into scrapes, of which I will mention one instance, 
as it shows an early projecting public spirit, tho' not 
then justly conducted. 

There was a salt-marsh that bounded part of the 
mill-pond, on the edge of which, at high water, we 
used to stand to fish for minnows. By much tramp- 
ling, Ave had made it a mere quagmire. My pro- 
posal was to build a wharff there fit for us to stand 
upon, and I showed my comrades a large heap of 
stones, which were intended for a new house near 
the marsh, and which would very well suit our pur- 
pose. Accordingly, in the evening, when the work- 
men were gone, I assembled a number of my play- 
fellows, and working with them diligently like so 
many emmets, sometimes two or three to a stone, 
we brought them all away and built our little wharff. 
The next morning the workmen were surprised at 
missing the stones, which were found in our wharff. 
Inquiry was made after the removers; we were dis- 
covered and complained of; several of us were corrected 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 39 

by our fathers; and, though I pleaded the usefulness 
of the work, mine convinced me that nothing was 
Useful which was not honest. 

I think you may like to know something of his 
person and character. He had an excellent consti- 
tution of body, was of middle stature, but well set, 
and very strong; he was ingenious, could draw prettily, 
was skilled a little in music, and had a clear pleasing 
voice, so that when he played psalm tunes on his 
violin and sung withal, as he sometimes did in an 
evening after the business of the day was over, it was 
extremely agreeable to hear. He had a mechanical 
genius too, and, on occasion, was very handy in the 
use of other tradesmen's tools; but his great excellence 
lay in a sound understanding and solid judgment 
in prudential matters, both in private and publick 
affairs. In the latter, indeed, he was never employed, 
the numerous family he had to educate and the strait- 
ness of his circumstances keeping him close to his 
trade; but I remember well his being frequently 
visited by leading people, who consulted him for his 
opinion in affairs of the town or of the church he 
belonged to, and showed a good deal of respect for 
his judgment and advice: he was also much consulted 
by private persons about their affairs when any dif- 
ficulty occurred, and frequently chosen an arbitrator 
between contending parties. At his table he liked 
to have, as often as he could, some sensible friend or 
neighbor to converse with, and always took care to 
start some ingenious or useful topic for discourse, 
which might tend to improve the minds of his chil- 



40 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

dren. By this means he turned our attention to what 
was good, just, and prudent in the conduct of life; 
and little or no notice was ever taken of what related 
to the victuals on the table, whether it w T as well or 
ill dressed, in or out of season, of good or bad flavor, 
preferable or inferior to this or that other thing of the 
kind, so that I was bro't up in such a perfect inatten- 
tion to those matters as to be quite indifferent what 
kind of food was set before me, and so unobservant 
of it, that to this day if I am asked I can scarce tell 
a few hours after dinner what I dined upon. This 
has been a convenience to me in travelling, where 
my companions have been sometimes very unhappy 
for want of a suitable gratification of their more deli- 
cate, because better instructed, tastes and appetites. 

My mother had likewise an excellent constitution: 
she suckled all her ten children. I never knew either 
my father or mother to have any sickness but that of 
which they dy'd, he at 89, and she at 85 years of age. 
They lie buried together at Boston, where I some 
years since placed a marble over their grave, with 
this inscription: 

Josiah Franklin, 
and 

Abiah his wife, 

lie here interred. 

They lived lovingly together in wedlock 

fifty-five years. 

Without an estate, or any gainful employment, 

By constant labor and industry, 

with God's blessing, 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 41 

They maintained a large family 

comfortably, 

and brought up thirteen children 

and seven grandchildren 

reputably. 

From this instance, reader, 

Be encouraged to diligence in thy calling, 

And distrust not Providence. 

He was a pious and prudent man ; 

She, a discreet and virtuous woman. 

Their youngest son, 

In filial regard to their memory, 

Places this stone. 

J. F. born 1655, died 1744, iEtat 89. 

A. F. born 1667, died 1752, 85. 

By my rambling digressions I perceive myself to 
be grown old. I us'd to write more methodically. 
But one does not dress for private company as for a 
publick ball. 'Tis perhaps only negligence. 

To return: I continued thus employed in my father's 
business for two years, that is, till I was twelve years 
old; and my brother John, who w r as bred to that busi- 
ness, having left my father, married, and set up for 
himself at Rhode Island, there was all appearance 
that I was destined to supply his place, and become 
a tallow-chandler. But my dislike to the trade con- 
tinuing, my father was under apprehensions that if 
he did not find one for me more agreeable, I should 
break away and get to sea, as his son Josiah had done, 
to his great vexation. He therefore sometimes took 
me to walk with him, and see joiners, bricklayers, 
turners, braziers, etc., at their work, that he might 
observe my inclination, and endeavor to fix it on 



42 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

some trade or other on land. It has ever since been 
a pleasure to me to see good workmen handle their 
tools; and it has been useful to me, having learnt so 
much by it as to be able to do little jobs myself in my 
house when a workman could not readily be got, 
and to construct little machines for my experiments, 
while the intention of making the experiment was 
fresh and warm in my mind. My father at last fixed 
upon the cutler's trade, and my uncle Benjamins 
son Samuel, who was bred to that business in London, 
being about that time established in Boston, I was 
sent to be with him some time on liking. But his 
expectations of a fee with me displeasing my father, 
I was taken home again. 

From a child I was fond of reading, and all the 
little money that came into my hands was ever laid 
out in books. Pleased with the Pilgrim's Progress, 
my first collection was of John Bunyan's works in 
separate little volumes. I afterward sold them to 
enable me to buy R. Burton's Historical Collections; 
they were small chapman's books, 1 and cheap, 40 or 
50 in all. My father's little library consisted chiefly 
of books in polemic divinity, most of which I read, 
and have since often regretted that, at a time when 
I had such a thirst for knowledge, more proper books 
had not fallen in my way, since it was now resolved 
I should not be a clergyman. Plutarch's Lives there 
was in which I read abundantly, and I still think 
that time spent to great advantage. There was also a 

1 Chapbooks or chapmen's books, so-called because hawked about 
the country by strolling chapmen or pedlars. 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 43 

book of De Foe's, called an Essay on Projects, 1 and 
another of Dr. Mather's, called Essays to do Good, 
which perhaps gave me a turn of thinking that had an 
influence on some of the principal future events of my 
life. 2 

This bookish inclination at length determined my 
father to make me a printer, 3 though he had already 
one son (James) of that profession. In 1717 my 
brother James returned from England with a press 
and letters to set up his business in Boston. I liked 
it much better than that of my father, but still had a 
hankering for the sea. To prevent the apprehended 
effect of such an inclination, my father was impatient 
to have me bound to my brother. I stood out some 

1 Daniel Defoe (1661-1731), the author of Robinson Crusoe, was a 
famous English novelist and pamphleteer. His Essay on Projects 
dealt with vaiious practical problems of the day and was written in 
much the same plain, matter-of-fact style that Franklin himself uses. 

2 In a letter afterwards written to Samuel, the son of Cotton Mather, 
Franklin again acknowledges his indebtedness to the Essays to do 
Good in the following terms: "When I was a boy I met with a book 
entitled 'Essays to do Good,' which I think was written by your father. 
It had been so little regarded by a former possessor, that several leaves 
of it were torn out ; but the remainder gave me such a turn of think- 
ing, as to have an influence on my conduct through life; for I have 
always set a greater value on the character' of a doer of good, than on 
any other kind of reputation; and if I have been, as you seem to 
think, a useful citizen, the public owes the advantage of it to that 
book." (Selections from the writings of Benjamin Franklin by U. 
Waldo Cutler, pp. 276-7.) 

3 In Franklin's day the printer was editor and publisher as well as 
printer, and consequently came to wield very considerable influence 
upon public opinion. Franklin's English friend William Strahan, was 
both printer and Member of Parliament. That Franklin was 
aware of the dignity of his profession is evident from the words with 
which he opened his will: "I, Benjamin Franklin, Printer, late Pleni- 
potentiary from the United States of America to the court of France and 
now President of the State of Pennsylvania, etc." 



44 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

time, but at last was persuaded, and signed the in- 
dentures when I was yet but twelve years old. I 
was to serve as an apprentice till I was twenty-one 
years of age, only I was to be allowed journeyman's 
wages during the last year. In a little time I made 
great proficiency in the business, and became a useful 
hand to my brother. I now had access to better books. 
An acquaintance with the apprentices of booksellers 
enabled me sometimes to borrow a small one, which 
I was careful to return soon and clean. Often I sat 
up in my room reading the greatest part of the night, 
when the book was borrowed in the evening and to 
be returned early in the morning, lest it should be 
missed or wanted. 

And after some time an ingenious tradesman, Mr. 
Matthew Adams, who had a pretty collection of 
books, and who frequented our printing-house, took 
notice of me, invited me to his library, and very kindly 
lent me such books as I chose to read. I now took 
a fancy to poetry, and made some little pieces; my 
brother, thinking it might turn to account, encouraged 
me, and put me on composing occasional ballads. 
One was called The Lighthouse Tragedy, and con- 
tained an account of the drowning of Captain Worthi- 
lake, with his two daughters: 1 the other was a sailor's 
song, on the taking of Teach (or Blackbeard) the 
pirate. 2 They were wretched stuff, in the Grub- 

1 Captain Worthilake, keeper of the Boston lighthouse, had been 
shipwrecked and drowned with his two daughters in a storm. 

2 Edward Teach, popularly known as Blackbeard, had captured 
many trading vessels and had struck terror into the breasts of the 
colonists both on land and sea. He was at length slain on the even- 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 45 

street-ballad style; 1 and when they were printed he 
sent me about the town to sell them. The first 
sold wonderfully, the event being recent, having made 
a great noise. This flattered my vanity; but my 
father discouraged me by ridiculing my performances, 
and telling me verse-makers were generally beggars. 
So I escaped being a poet, most probably a very bad 
one; but as prose writing has been of great use to 
me in the course of my life, and was a principal means 
of my advancement, I shall tell you how, in such a situ- 
ation, I acquired what little ability I have in that way. 
There was another bookish lad in the town, John 
Collins by name, with whom I was intimately ac- 
quainted. We sometimes disputed, and very fond 
we were of argument, and very desirous of confut- 
ing one another, which disputatious turn, by the way, 
is apt to become a very bad habit, making people 
often extremely disagreeable in company by the con- 
tradiction that is necessary to bring it into practice; 
and thence, besides souring and spoiling the conver- 
sation, is productive of disgusts and, perhaps enmities 
where you may have occasion for friendship. I had 
caught it by reading my father's books of dispute 
about religion. Persons of good sense, I have since ob- 
served, seldom fall into it, except lawyers, university men, 
and men of all sorts that have been bred at Edinborough. 

ing of November 21, 1717, after a desperate hand-to-hand encounter, 
by Lieutenant Maynard, who returned to shore with the head of the 
pirate attached to his bowsprit. 

1 Grub Street, now Milton Street, was a street upon which minor 
authors used to reside. The name has long been applied to dull 
and insipid verse of any kind. 



46 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

A question was once, somehow or other, started 
between Collins and me, of the propriety of educat- 
ing the female sex in learning, and their abilities for 
study. He was of opinion that it was improper, 
and that they were naturally unequal to it. I took 
the contrary side, perhaps a little for dispute's sake. 
He was naturally more eloquent, had a ready plenty 
of words, and sometimes, as I thought, bore me 
down more by his fluency than by the strength of 
his reasons. As we parted without settling the point, 
and were not to see one another again for some time, 
I sat down to put my arguments in writing, which 
I copied fair and sent to him. He answered, and I 
replied. Three of four letters of a side had passed, 
when my father happened to find my papers and read 
them. Without entering into the discussion, he took 
occasion to talk to me about the manner of my writ- 
ing; observed that, though I had the advantage of 
my antagonist in correct spelling and pointing 1 
(which I ow'd to the printing-house), I fell far short 
in elegance of expression, in method and in perspi- 
cuity, of which he convinced me by several instances. 
I saw the justice of his remarks, and thence grew 
more attentive to the manner in writing, and deter- 
mined to endeavor at improvement. 

About this time I met with an odd volume of the 
Spectator. 2 It was the third. I had never before 



1 Punctuating. 

2 The Spectator was a daily London journal jointly conducted by 
Steele and Addison and devoted not to news but to social satire. 
The establishment of the Spectator (1711), together with that of two 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 47 

seen any of them. I bought it, read it over and 
over, and was much delighted with it. I thought 
the writing excellent, and wished, if possible, to 
imitate it. With this view I took some of the papers, 
and, making short hints of the sentiment in each 
sentence, laid them by a few days, and then, with- 
out looking at the book, try'd to compleat the papers 
again, by expressing each hinted sentiment at length, 
and as fully as it had been expressed before, in any 
suitable words that should come to hand. Then I 
compared my Spectator with the original, discovered 
some of my faults, and corrected them. But I found 
I wanted a stock of words, or a readiness in recol- 
lecting and using them, which I thought I should 
have acquired before that time if I had gone on making 
verses; since the continual occasion for words of 
the same import, but of different length, to suit the 
measure, or of different sound for the rhyme, would 
have laid me under a constant necessity of search- 
ing for variety, and also have tended to fix that variety 
in my mind, and make me master of it. Therefore 
I took some of the tales and turned them into verse; 
and, after a time, when I had pretty well forgotten 
the prose, turned them back again. I also some- 
times jumbled my collections of hints into confusion, 
and after some weeks endeavored to reduce them 
into the best order, before I began to form the full 
sentences and compleat the paper. This was to 
teach me method in the arrangement of thoughts. 

similar periodicals, the Tatler (1709) and the Guardian (1713), marks 
the beginning of modern periodical literature. 



48 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

By comparing my work afterwards with the original, 
I discovered many faults and amended them; but I 
sometimes had the pleasure of fancying that, in cer- 
tain particulars of small import, I had been lucky 
enough to improve the method or the language, and 
this encouraged me to think I might possibly in time 
come to be a tolerable English writer, of which I was 
extreamly ambitious. My time for these exercises 
and for reading was at night, after work or before 
it began in the morning, or on Sunday's, when I 
contrived to be in the printing-house alone, evading 
as much as I could the common attendance on pub- 
lic worship which my father used to exact of me 
when I was under his care, and which indeed I still 
thought a duty, though I could not, as it seemed to 
me, afford time to practise it. 1 

When about 16 years of age I happened to meet 
with a book, written by one Tryon, recommending 
a vegetable diet. I determined to go into it. My 
brother, being yet unmarried, did not keep house, 
but boarded himself and his apprentices in another 
family. My refusing to eat flesh occasioned an in- 
conveniency, and I was frequently chid for my sin- 
gularity. I made myself acquainted with Tyron's 
manner of preparing some of his dishes, such as 
boiling potatoes or rice, making hasty pudding, and 
a few others, and then proposed to my brother, that 
if he would give me, weekly, half the money he paid 

1 Although never in after life a regular 'church attendant, Franklin 
sympathized with religious denominations, gave them subscriptions, 
and on one occasion rented a pew in the Episcopalian church in 
Philadelphia. 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 49 

for my board, I would board myself. He instantly 
agreed to it, and I presently found that I could save 
half what he paid me. This was an additional fund 
for buying books. But I had another advantage in 
it. My brother and the rest going from the print- 
ing-house to their meals, I remained there alone, 
and, despatching presently my light repast, which 
often was no more than a bisket or a slice of bread, 
a handful of raisins or a tart from the pastry-cook's, 
and a glass of water, had the rest of the time till 
their return for study, in which I made the greater 
progress, from that greater clearness of head and 
quicker apprehension which usually attend temper- 
ance in eating and drinking. 

And now it was that, being on some occasion made 
asham'd of my ignorance in figures, which I had 
twice failed in learning when at school, I took Cocker's 
book of Arithmetick, and went through the whole 
by myself with great ease. I also read Seller's and 
Shermy's books of Navigation, and became acquainted 
with the little geometry they contain; but never pro- 
ceeded far in that science. And I read about this 
time Locke on Human Understanding, 1 and the 
Art of Thinking, by Messrs. du Port Royal.' 2 

1 John Locke (1632-1704), a celebrated English philosopher, 
maintained, in his Essay Concerning the Human Understanding, that 
all knowledge is gained from sense perception. As a result of this 
view Locke became the founder of the so-called "common-sense" 
school of philosophers. 

2 The name of an abbey eight miles southwest of Versailles, where 
in the seventeenth century a small band of devout men wrote learned 
books, among them La Logique ou Vart de penser. It is to this book, 
now generally known as the Port Royal Logic, that Franklin is here 
referring. 



50 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

While I was intent on improving my language, I 
met with an English grammar (I think it was Green- 
wood's), at the end of which there were two little 
sketches of the arts of rhetoric and logic, the latter 
finishing with a specimen of a dispute in the Socratic 
method; and soon after I procurd Xenophon's Mem- 
orable Things of Socrates, wherein there are many 
instances of the same method. I was charm' d with 
it, adopted it, dropt my abrupt contradiction and 
positive argumentation, and put on the humble in- 
quirer and doubter. And being then, from reading 
Shaftesbury and Collins, 1 become a real doubter in 
many points of our religious doctrine, I found this 
method safest for myself and very embarrassing to 
those against whom I used it; therefore I took a de- 
light in it, practis'd it continually, and grew very 
artful and expert in drawing people, even of supe- 
rior knowledge, into concessions, the consequences 
of which thev did not foresee, entangling them in 
difficulties out of which they could not extricate 
themselves, and so obtaining victories that neither 
myself nor my cause always deserved. I continu'd 
this method some few years, but gradually left it, 
retaining only the habit of expressing myself in terms 
of modest diffidence; never using, when I advanced 
any thing that may possibly be disputed, the words 

1 The Earl of Shaftesbury (Anthony Ashley Cooper) and Anthony 
Collins were two of the most famous of the Deists, an eighteenth cen- 
tury theological sect which refused to credit the possibility of miracles 
and to acknowledge the validity of revelation. Collins's work? are 
not now so generally read as Shaftesbury's, whose* Characteristics is 
still of genuine interest. 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 51 

certainly, undoubtedly, or any others that give the 
air of positiveness to an opinion; but rather say, I 
conceive or apprehend a thing to be so and so; it 
appears to me, or I should think it so or so, for such 
and such reasons; or / imagine it to be so; or it is so, if 
I am not mistaken. This habit, I believe, has been 
of great advantage to me when I have had occasion 
to inculcate my opinions, and persuade men into 
measures that I have been from time to time 
engag'd in promoting; and, as the chief ends of con- 
versation are to inform or to be informed, to please 
or to persuade, I wish well-meaning, sensible men 
would not lessen their power of doing good by a 
positive, assuming manner, that seldom fails to dis- 
gust, tends to create opposition, and to defeat every 
one of those purposes for which speech was given 
to us, to wit, giving or receiving information or pleas- 
ure. For, if you would inform, a positive and dog- 
matical manner in advancing your sentiments may 
provoke contradiction and prevent a candid attention. 
If you wish information and improvement from the 
knowledge of others, and yet at the same time ex- 
press yourself as firmly fix'd in your present opinions, 
modest, sensible men, who do not love disputa- 
tion, will probably leave you undisturbed in the 
possession of your error. And by such a manner, 
you can seldom hope to recommend yourself in pleas- 
ing your hearers, or to persuade those whose con- 
currence you desire. Pope says, judiciously: 

"Men should be taught as if you taught them not, 
And things unknown propos'd as things forgot;" 



52 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

farther recommending to us 

"To speak, tho' sure, with seeming diffidence." 

And he might have coupled with this line that which 
he has coupled with another, I think, less properly, 

"For want of modesty is want of sense:" 
If you ask, Why less properly? I must repeat the 

lines, 

"Immodest words admit of no defense, 
For want of modesty is want of sense." 

Now, is not want of sense (where a man is so un- 
fortunate as to want it) some apology for his want 
of modesty f and would not the lines stand more justly 

thus? 

"Immodest words admit but this defense, 
That want of modesty is want of sense." 

This, however, I should submit to better judgments. 
My brother had, in 1720 or 1721, begun to print 
a newspaper. It was the second that appeared in 
America, and was called the New England Courant. 1 
The only one before it was the Boston News-Letter. 
I remember his being dissuaded by some of his friends 
from the undertaking, as not likely to succeed, one 
newspaper being, in their judgment, enough for 
America. At this time (1771) there are not less 

1 Franklin was here at fault. The Courant, first published August 
21, 1721, was not the second, but the fifth newspaper in America, 
having been preceded in Boston by Public Occurrences (1690), the 
Boston News Letter (1704), and the Boston Gazette (1719), and in Phila- 
delphia by the American Weekly Mercury (1719). Franklin's error 
was probably due to a confusion of the New England Courant with 
the Boston Gazette, which had also been printed by James Franklin 
and which was generally regarded as the second newspaper in Amer- 
ica, Public Occurrences having been suppressed after a single issue. 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 53 

than five-and-twenty. He went on, however, with 
the undertaking, and after having worked in com- 
posing the types and printing off the sheets, I was 
employed to carry the papers thro' the streets to 
the customers. 

He had some ingenious men among his friends, 
who amus'd themselves by w T riting little pieces for 
this paper, which gain'd it credit and made it more 
in demand, and these gentlemen often visited us. 
Hearing their conversations, and their accounts of 
the approbation their papers were received with, I 
was excited to try my hand among them; but, being 
still a boy, and suspecting that my brother w r ould 
object to printing anything of mine in his paper if 
he knew it to be mine, I contrived to disguise my 
hand, and, writing an anonymous paper, I put it in 
at night under the door of the printing-house. It 
was found in the morning, and communicated to his 
writing friends when they call'd in as usual. They 
read it, commented on it in my hearing, and I had 
the exquisite pleasure of finding it met with their 
approbation, and that, in their different guesses at 
the author, none were named but men of some char- 
acter among us for learning and ingenuity. I sup- 
pose now that I was rather lucky in my judges, and 
that perhaps they were not really so very good ones 
as I then esteem' d them. 

Encourag'd, however, by this, I wrote and con- 
vey' d in the same way to the press several more 
papers which were equally approv'd; and I kept 
my secret till my small fund of sense for such per- 



54 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

formances was pretty well exhausted, and then I 
discovered it, when I began to be considered a little 
more by my brother's acquaintance, and in a man- 
ner that did not quite please him, as he thought, 
probably with reason, that it tended to make me too 
vain. And, perhaps, this might be one occasion of 
the differences that we began to have about this 
time. Though a brother, he considered himself as 
my master, and me as his apprentice, and, accord- 
ingly, expected the same services from me as he 
would from another, while I thought he demean' d 
me too much in some he requir'd of me, who from 
a brother expected more indulgence. Our disputes 
were often brought before our father, and I fancy I 
was either generally in the right, or else a better 
pleader, because the judgment was generally in my 
favor. But my brother was passionate, and had often 
beaten me, which I took extreamly amiss; and, think- 
ing my apprenticeship very tedious, I was continually 
wishing for some opportunity of shortening it, which 
at length offered in a manner unexpected. 1 

One of the pieces in our newspaper on some po- 
litical point, which I have now forgotten, gave offense 
to the Assembly. He was taken up, censur'd, and 
imprison' d for a month, by the speaker's warrant, 
I suppose, because he would not discover his author. 
I too was taken up and examin'd before the council; 
but, tho' I did not give them any satisfaction, they 

1 "I fancy," writes Franklin in a marginal note, "his harsh and 
tyrannical treatment of me might be a means of impressing me with 
that aversion to arbitrary power that has stuck to me through my 
whole life.' * 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 55 

contented themselves with admonishing me, and dis- 
missed me, considering me, perhaps, as an appren- 
tice, who was bound to keep his master' s secrets. 

During my brother's confinement, which I re- 
sented a good deal, notwithstanding our private 
differences s I had the management of the paper; 
and I made bold to give our rulers some rubs in it, 
which my brother took very kindly, while others 
began to consider me in an unfavorable light, as a 
young genius that had a turn for libelling and satyr. 
My brother's discharge was accompany' d with an 
order of the House (a very odd one), that "James 
Franklin should no longer print the paper called the 
New England C our ant." 

There was a consultation held in our printing- 
house among his friends, what he should do in this 
case. Some proposed to evade the order by chang- 
ing the name of the paper; but my brother, seeing 
inconveniences in that, it was finally concluded on 
as a better way, to let it be printed for the future 
under the name of Benjamin Franklin; and to 
avoid the censure of the Assembly, that might fall 
on him as still printing it by his apprentice, the con- 
trivance was that my old indenture should be re- 
turn' d to me, with a full discharge on the back of 
it, to be shown on occasion, but to secure to him the 
benefit of my service, I was to sign new indentures 
for the remainder of the term, which were to be kept 
private. A very flimsy scheme it was; however, it 
was immediately executed, and the paper went on 
accordingly, under my name for several months. * 



56 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

At length, a fresh difference arising between my 
brother and me, I took upon rne to assert my free- 
dom, presuming that he would not venture to pro- 
duce the new indentures. It was not fair in me to 
take this advantage, and this I therefore reckon one 
of the first errata of my life; but the unfairness of 
it weighed little with me, when under the impres- 
sions of resentment for the blows his passion too 
often urged him to bestow upon me, though he was 
otherwise not an ill-natur'd man: perhaps I was too 
saucy and provoking. 

When he found I would leave him, he took care 
to prevent my getting employment in any other print- 
ing-house of the town, by going round and speaking 
to every master, who accordingly refus'd to give me 
work. I then thought of going to Xew York, as the 
nearest place where there was a printer; and I was 
rather inclin'd to leave Boston when I reflected that 
I had already made myself a little obnoxious to the 
governing party, and, from the arbitrary proceed- 
ings of the Assembly in my brother's case, it was 
likely I might, if I stay'd, soon bring myself into 
scrapes; and farther, that my indiscrete disputations 
about religion began to make me pointed at with 
horror by good people as an infidel or atheist. I 
determin'd on the point, but my father now siding 
with my brother, I was sensible that, if I attempted 
to go openly, means would be used to prevent me. 
My friend Collins, therefore, undertook to manage 
a little for me. He agreed with the captain of a 
New York sloop for my passage, under the notion 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 57 

of my being a young acquaintance of his [that had 
become detected in a youthful escapade], and there- 
fore I could not appear or come away publicly. So 
I sold some of my books to raise a little money, was 
taken on board privately, and as we had a fair wind, 
in three days I found myself in New York, near 300 
miles from home, a boy of but 17, without the least 
recommendation to, or knowledge of any person in 
the place, and with very little money in my pocket. 
My inclinations for the sea were by this time worne 
out, or I might now have gratify' d them. But, hav- 
ing a trade, and supposing myself a pretty good 
workman, I offer' d my sendee to the printer in the 
place, old Mr. William Bradford, who had been the 
first printer in Pennsylvania, but removed from 
thence upon the quarrel of George Keith. 1 He could 
give me no employment, having little to do, and 
help enough already; but says he, "My son at Phila- 
delphia has lately lost his principal hand, Aquila 
Rose, by death; if you go thither, I believe he may 
employ you." Philadelphia was a hundred miles 
further; I set out, however, in a boat for Amboy, 
leaving my chest and things to follow me round by 
sea. 

1 William Bradford, an English printer who, in 1685, came to 
Philadelphia at the invitation of William Penn, began in the same 
year to print Atkins's Kalendarium Pennsilvaniense, or Pennsylvania 
Almanac, the first pamphlet issued in the Middle Colonies; but having, 
by the publication of certain unguarded expressions with reference 
to William Penn, incurred the displeasure of the authorities, Bradford 
left Philadelphia for New York, where he continued his activities 
as printer, issuing in 1725 the first newspaper published in that 
colony. 



58 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

In crossing the bay, we met with a squall . that 
tore our rotten sails to pieces, prevented our getting 
into the Kill; 1 and drove us upon Long Island. In 
our way, a drunken Dutchman, who was a passen- 
ger too, fell overboard; when he was sinking, I reached 
through the water to his shock pate, and drew him 
up, so that we got him in again. His ducking sobered 
him a little, and he went to sleep, taking first out 
of his pocket a book, which he desir'd I would dry 
for him. It proved to be my old favorite author, 
Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, in Dutch, finely printed 
on good paper, with copper cuts, a dress better than 
I had ever seen it wear in its own language. I have 
since found that it has been translated into most 
of the languages of Europe, and suppose it has been 
more generally read than any other book, except 
perhaps the Bible. Honest John was the first that 
1 know of who mix'd narration and dialogue; 2 a 
method of writing very engaging to the reader, who 
in the most interesting parts finds himself, as it were, 
brought into the company and present at the discourse. 
De Foe in his Cruso, his Moll Flanders, Religious 
Courtship, Family Instructor, and other pieces, has 

1 Kill is the Dutch word for channel and is here applied to the Kill 
van Kull, the strait between Staten Island and New Jersey. 

2 Franklin's assertion is not strictly true. In poetical narration, 
particularly in poetical narration of the artificial and conventional 
type, dialogue had been repeatedly combined with narration for 
centuries before Bunyan's day. What gives Bunyan's dialogue a 
novel aspect — and serves in so far to lend color to Franklin's obser- 
vation — is that Bunyan makes his characters converse in the simple 
prose of everyday life, colored to be sure with biblical imagery, but 
much nearer to actual conversation than the poetic diction of his 
predecessors. 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 59 

imitated it with success; and Richardson has done 
the same in his Pamela, etc. 1 

When we drew near the island, we found it was 
at a place where there could be no landing, there 
being a great surff on the stony beach. So we dropt 
anchor, and swung round towards the shore. Some 
people came down to the water edge and hallow 'd 
to us, as we did to them; but the wind was so high, 
and the surff so loud, that we could not hear so as 
to understand each other. There were canoes on 
the shore, and we made signs, and hallow' d that 
they should fetch us; but they either did not under- 
stand us, or thought it impracticable, so they went 
away, and night coming on, we had no remedy but 
to wait till the wind should abate: and, in the mean 
time, the boatman and I concluded to sleep, if we 
could; and so crowded into the scuttle, with the Dutch- 
man, who was still wet, and the spray beating over 
the head of our boat, leak'd thro' to us, so that we 
were soon almost as wet as he. In this manner we 
lay all night, with very little rest; but, the wind abat- 
ing the next day, we made a shift to reach Amboy 
before night, having been thirty hours on the water, 
without victuals, or any drink but a bottle of filthy 
rum, the water we sail'd on being salt. 

In the evening I found myself very feverish, and 
went in to bed; but, having read somewhere that 
cold water drank plentifully was good for a fever, I fol- 

1 Samuel Richardson (1689-1761), one of the earliest English 
novelists. Richardson's other novels are Clarissa Harlowe and The 
History of Sir Charles Grandison. 



60 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

low'd the prescription, sweat plentifully most of the night, 
my fever left me, and in the morning, crossing the 
ferry, I proceeded on my journey on foot, having fifty 
miles to Burlington, where I was told I should find boats 
that would carry me the rest of the way to Philadelphia. 
It rained very hard all the day; I was thoroughly 
soak'd, and by noon a good deal tired; so I stopt 
at a poor inn, where I staid all night, beginning now 
to wish that I had never left home. I cut so miser- 
able a figure, too, that I found, by the questions ask'd 
me, I was suspected to be some runaway servant, 
and in danger of being taken up on that suspicion. 
However, I proceeded the next day, and got in the 
evening to an inn, within eight or ten miles of Bur- 
lington, kept by one Dr. Brown. He entered into 
conversation with me while I took some refreshment, 
and, finding I had read a little, became very sociable 
and friendly. Our acquaintance continu'd as long 
as he liv'd. He had been, I imagine, an itinerant 
doctor, for there was no town in England, or country 
in Europe, of which he could not give a very partic- 
ular account. He had some letters, and was ingenious, 
but much of an unbeliever, and wickedly undertook, 
some years after, to travestie the Bible in doggrel 
verse, as Cotton had done Virgil. 1 By this means 
he set many of the facts in a very ridiculous light, 
and might have hurt weak minds if his work had 
been published; but it never was. 

1 Charles Cotton (1630-1687), the author of the treatise on fly-fish- 
ing which forms the second part of Walton's Complete Angler, and 
of the burlesque poem entitled Scarronides, or the First Book of Virgil 
Travestie (travestied). 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 61 

At his house I lay that night, and the next morn- 
ing reach' d Burlington, but had the mortification to 
find that the regular boats were gone a little before 
my coming, and no other expected to go before Tues- 
day, this being Saturday; wherefore I returned to 
an old woman in the town, of whom I had bought 
gingerbread to eat on the water, and ask'd her advice. 
She invited me to lodge at her house till a passage 
by water should offer; and being tired with my foot 
travelling, I accepted the invitation. She under- 
standing I was a printer, would have had me stay 
at that town and follow my business, being ignorant 
of the stock necessary to begin with. She was very 
hospitable, gave me a dinner of ox-cheek with great 
good will, accepting only of a pot of ale in return; 
and I thought myself fixed till Tuesday should come. 
However, walking in the evening by the side of the 
river, a boat came by, which I found was going to- 
wards Philadelphia, with several people in her. They 
took me in, and, as there was no wind, we row'd 
all the way; and about midnight, not having yet seen 
the city, some of the company were confident we 
must have passed it, and would row no farther; the 
others knew not where we were; so we put toward 
the shore, got into a creek, landed near an old fence, 
with the rails of which we made a fire, the night 
being cold, in October, and there we remained till 
daylight. Then one of the company knew the place 
to be Cooper's Creek, a little above Philadelphia, 
which we saw as soon as we got out of the creek, 
and arriv'd there about eight or nine o'clock on the 



62 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

Sunday morning, and landed at the Market-street 
wharf. 

I have been the more particular in this description 
of my journey, and shall be so of my first entry into 
that city, that you may in your mind compare such 
unlikely beginnings with the figure I have since 
made there. I was in my working dress, my best 
cloaths being to come round by sea. I was dirty 
from my journey; my pockets were stuff 'd out with 
shirts and stockings, and I knew no soul nor where 
to look for lodging. I was fatigued with travelling, 
rowing and want of rest, I was very hungry; and 
my whole stock of cash consisted of a Dutch dollar, 1 
and about a shilling in copper. The latter I gave 
the people of the boat for my passage, who at first 
refus'd it, on account of my rowing; but I insisted 
on their taking it. A man being sometimes more 
generous when he has but a little money than when 
he has plenty, perhaps thro' fear of being thought 
to have but little. 

Then I walked up the street, gazing about till 
near the market-house I met a boy with bread. I 
had made many a meal on bread, and, inquiring 
where he got it, I went immediately to the baker's 
he directed me to, in Second-street, and ask'd for 
bisket, intending such as we had in Boston; but 
they, it seems, were not made in Philadelphia. Then 
I asked for a three-penny loaf, and was told they 

1 Owing to the absence of a national government, mints did not 
exist in colonial times and, althougli paper money was frequently 
printed by the several colonies, the metal currency was of foreign 
coinage. 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 63 

had none such. So not considering or knowing 
the difference of money, and the greater cheapness 
nor the names of his bread, I bad him give me three- 
penny worth of any sort. He gave me, accordingly, 
three great puffy rolls. I was surpriz'd at the quan- 
tity, but took it, and, having no room in my pockets, 
walk'd off with a roll under each arm, and eating 
the other. Thus I went up Market-street as far 
as Fourth-street, passing by the door of Mr. Read, 
my future wife's father; when she, standing at the 
door, saw me, and thought I made, as I certainly 
did, a most awkward, ridiculous appearance. Then 
I turned and went down Chesnut-street and part 
of Walnut-street, eating my roll all the way, and, 
coming round, found myself again at Market-street 
wharf, near the boat I came in, to which I went for 
a draught of the river water; and, being filled with 
one of my rolls, gave the other two to a woman and 
her child that came down the river in the boat with 
us, and were waiting to go farther. 

Thus refreshed, I walked again up the street, 
which by this time had many clean-dressed people 
in it, who were all walking the same way. I joined 
them, and thereby was led into the great meeting- 
house of the Quakers near the market. I sat down 
among them, and, after looking round awhile and 
hearing nothing said, being very drowsy thro' labor 
and want of rest the preceding night, I fell fast asleep, 
and continu'd so till the meeting broke up, when one 
was kind enough to rouse me. This was, therefore, 
the first house I was in, or slept in, in Philadelphia. 



64 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

Walking down again toward the river, and, look- 
ing in the faces of people, I met a young Quaker 
man, whose countenance I lik'd, and, accosting him, 
requested he would tell me where a stranger could 
get lodging. We were then near the sign of the 
Three Mariners. "Here," says he, "is one place 
that entertains strangers, but it is not a reputable 
house; if thee wilt walk with me, I'll show thee a 
better." He brought me to the Crooked Billet in 
Water-street. Here I got a dinner; and, while I 
was eating it, several sly questions were asked me, 
as it seemed to be suspected from my youth and 
appearance, that I might be some runaway. 

After dinner, my sleepiness return'd, and being 
shown to a bed, I lay down without undressing, and 
slept till six in the evening, was call'd to supper, 
went to bed again very early, and slept soundly till 
next morning. Then I made myself as tidy as I 
could, and went to Andrew Bradford the printer's. 
I found in the shop the old man his father, whom I 
had seen at Xew York, and who, travelling on horse- 
back, had got to Philadelphia before me. He intro- 
duc'd me to his son, who receiv'd me civilly, gave 
me a breakfast, but told me he did not at present 
want a hand, being lately suppli'd with one; but 
there was another printer in town, lately set up, one 
Keimer, who, perhaps, might employ me; if not, I 
should be welcome to lodge at his house, and he 
would give me a little work to do now and then till 
fuller business should offer. 

The old gentleman said he would go with me to 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 65 

the new printer; and when we found him, "Neigh- 
bor/' says Bradford, "I have brought to see you a 
young man of your business; perhaps you may want 
such a one." He ask'd me a few questions, put a 
composing stick in my hand to see how I work'd, 
and then said he would employ me soon, though he 
had just then nothing for me to do; and, taking old 
Bradford, whom he had never seen before, to be 
one of the town's people that had a good will for 
him, enter'd into a conversation on his present under- 
taking and prospects; while Bradford, not discover- 
ing that he was the other printer's father, on Keimer's 
saying he expected soon to get the greatest part of 
the business into his own hands, drew him on by 
artful questions, and starting little doubts, to explain 
all his views, what interest he reli'd on, and in what 
manner he intended to proceed. I, who stood by 
and heard all, saw immediately that one of them 
was a crafty old sophister, and the other a mere 
novice. Bradford left me with Keimer, who was 
greatly surpris'd when I told him who the old man 
was. 

Keimer's printing-house, I found, consisted of an 
old shatter' d press, and one small, worn-out font of 
English, 1 which he was then using himself, compos- 
ing an Elegy on Aquila Rose, before mentioned, an 
ingenious young man, of excellent character, much 
respected in the town, clerk of the Assembly, and a 
pretty poet. Keimer made verses too, but very 

1 The name given to type of "fourteen-point" size. "Ten-point" or 
"long primer" is the size ordinarily used in printed books of to-day. 



66 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

indifferently. He could not be said to write them, 
for his manner was to compose them in the types 
directly out of his head. So there being no copy, 
but one pair of cases, 1 and the Elegy likely to require 
all the letter, no one could help him. I endeavor'd 
to put his press (which he had not yet us'd, and of 
which he understood nothing) into order fit to be 
work'd with; and, promising to come and print off 
his Elegy as soon as he should have got it ready, I 
return'd to Bradford's, who gave me a little job to 
do for the present, and there I lodged and dieted. 
A few days after, Keimer sent for me to print off 
the Elegy. And now he had got another pair of 
cases, and a pamphlet to reprint, on which he set 
me to work. 

These two printers I found poorly qualified for 
their business. Bradford had not been bred to it, 
and was very illiterate; and Keimer, tho' something 
of a scholar, was a mere compositor, knowing nothing 
of presswork. He had been one of the French 
prophets, 2 and could act their enthusiastic agitations. 
At this time he did not profess any particular religion, 
but something of all on occasion; was very ignorant 
of the world, and had, as I afterward found, a good 
deal of the knave in his composition. He did not 
like my lodging at Bradford's while I work'd with 
him. He had a house, indeed, but without furni- 

1 Each compositor requires a separate pair of cases, an "upper 
case," which contains capital letters, and a "lower case," which con- 
tains small letters. 

2 Probably the Camisards, a French Protestant sect persecuted by 
Louis XIV. 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 67 

ture, so he could not lodge me; but he got me a lodging 
at Mr. Read's, before mentioned, who was the owner 
of his house; and, my chest and clothes being come 
by this time, I made rather a more respectable ap- 
pearance in the eyes of Miss Read than I had done 
when she first happen'd to see me eating my roll in 
the street. 

I began now to have some acquaintance among 
the young people of the town, that were lovers of 
reading, with whom I spent my evenings very pleas- 
antly; and gaining money by my industry and fru- 
gality, I lived very agreeably, forgetting Boston as 
much as I could, and not desiring that any there 
should know where I resided, except my friend Col- 
lins, who was in my secret, and kept it when I wrote 
to him. At length, an incident happened that sent 
me back again much sooner than I had intended. 
I had a brother-in-law, Robert Holmes, master of a 
sloop that traded between Boston and Delaware. 
He being at Newcastle, forty miles below Philadel- 
phia, heard there of me, and wrote me a letter men- 
tioning the concern of my friends in Boston at my 
abrupt departure, assuring me of their good will to 
me, and that every thing would be accommodated 
to my mind if I would return, to which he exhorted 
me very earnestly. I wrote an answer to his letter, 
thank' d him for his advice, but stated my reasons 
for quitting Boston fully and in such a light as to 
convince him I was not so wrong as he had appre- 
hended. 

Sir William Keith, governor of the province, was 



68 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

then at Newcastle, and Captain Holmes, happening 
to be in company with him when my letter came to 
hand, spoke to him of me, and show'd him the let- 
ter. The governor read it, and seem'd surprise] 
when he was told my age. He said I appear d a 
young man of promising parts, and therefore should 
be encouraged; the printers at Philadelphia were 
wretched ones; and, if I would set up there, he made 
no doubt I should succeed; for his part, he would 
procure me the public business, and do me every 
other service in his power. This my brother-in- 
law afterwards told me in Boston, but I knew as yet 
nothing of it; when, one day, Keimer and I being 
at work together near the window, we saw the gov- 
ernor and another gentleman (which proved to be 
Colonel French, of Newcastle), finely dress'd, come 
directly across the street to our house, and heard 
them at the door. 

Keimer ran down immediately, thinking it a visit 
to him; but the governor inquir'd for me, came up, 
and with a condescension and politeness I had been 
quite unus'd to, made me many compliments, de- 
sired to be acquainted with me, blam'd me kindly 
for not having made myself known to him when I 
first came to the place, and would have me away 
with him to the tavern, where he was going with 
Colonel French to taste, as he said, some excellent 
Madeira. I was not a little surprised, and Keimer 
star'd like a pig poison' d. I went, however, with 
the governor and Colonel French to a tavern, at the 
corner of Third-street, and over the Madeira he 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 69 

propos'd my setting up my business, laid before me 
the probabilities of success, and both he and Colonel 
French assur'd me I should have their interest and 
influence in procuring the public business of both 
governments. On my doubting whether my father 
would assist me in it, Sir William said he would 
give me a letter to him, in which he would state the 
advantages, and he did not doubt of prevailing with 
him. So it was concluded I should return to Boston 
in the first vessel, with the governor's letter recom- 
mending me to my father. In the mean time the 
intention was to be kept a secret, and I went on work- 
ing with Keimer as usual, the governor sending for 
me now and then to dine with him, a very great honor 
I thought it, and conversing with me in the most 
affable, familiar, and friendly manner imaginable. 

About the end of April, 1724, a little vessel offer' d 
for Boston. I took leave of Keimer as going to see 
my friends. The governor gave me an ample letter, 
saying many flattering things of me to my father, 
and strongly recommending the project of my sea- 
ting up at Philadelphia as a thing that must make 
my fortune. We struck on a shoal in going down 
the bay, and sprung a leak; we had a blustering 
time at sea, and were ohlig'd to pump almost con- 
tinually, at which I took my turn. We arriv'd safe, 
however, at Boston in about a fortnight. I had 
been absent seven months, and my friends had heard 
nothing of me; for my br. Holmes was not yet return' d, 
and had not written about me. My unexpected 
appearance surpriz'd the family; all were, however, 



70 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

very glad to see me, and made me welcome, except 
my brother. I went to see him at his printing-house. 
I was better dress' d than ever while in his service, 
having a genteel new suit from head to foot, a watch, 
and my pockets lin'd with near five pounds sterling 
in silver. He receiv'd me not very frankly, look'd 
me all over, and turn'd to his work again. 

The journeymen were inquisitive where I had 
been, what sort of a country it was, and how I lik'd 
it. I prais'd it much, and the happy life I led in it, 
expressing strongly my intention of returning to it; 
and, one of them asking what kind of money we had 
there, I produc'd a handful of silver, and spread 
it before them, which was a kind of raree-show they 
had not been us'd to, paper being the money of Bos- 
ton. Then I took an opportunity of letting them 
see my watch; and, lastly (my brother still grum 
and sullen), I gave them a piece of eight 1 to drink, 
and took my leave. This visit of mine offended 
him extreamly; for, when my mother some time 
after spoke to him of a reconciliation, and of her 
wishes to see us on good terms together, and that 
we might live for the future as brothers, he said I 
had insulted him in such a manner before his people 
that he could never forget or forgive it. In this, 
however, he was mistaken. 

My father received the governor's letter with some 
apparent surprise, but said little of it to me for some 
days, when Capt. Holmes returning he show'd it 
to him, ask'd him if he knew Keith, and what kind 

1 A Spanish dollar ; so-called because it contains eight reals. 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 71 

of man he was; adding his opinion that he must be 
of small discretion to think of setting a boy up in 
business who wanted yet three years of being at 
man's estate. Holmes said what he could in favor 
of the project, but my father was clear in the impro- 
priety of it, and at last gave a flat denial to it. Then 
he wrote a civil letter to Sir William, thanking him 
for the patronage he had so kindly offered me, but 
declining to assist me as yet in setting up, I being, 
in his opinion, too young to be trusted wdth the man- 
agement of a business so important, and for which 
the preparation must be so expensive. 

My friend and companion Collins, who was a 
clerk in the post-office, pleas' d with the account I 
gave bim of my new country, determined to go thither 
also; and, while I waited for my father's determina- 
tion, he set out before me by land to Rhode Island, 
leaving his books, which were a pretty collection 
of mathematicks and natural philosophy, to come 
with mine and me to New York, where he propos'd 
to wait for me. 

My father, tho' he did not approve Sir William's 
proposition, was yet pleas' d that I had been able 
to obtain so advantageous a character from a person 
of such note where I had resided, and that I had been 
so industrious and careful as to equip myself so hand- 
somely in so short a time; therefore, seeing no prospect 
of an accommodation between my brother and me, 
he gave his consent to my returning again to Phila- 
delphia, advis'd me to behave respectfully to the 
people there, endeavor to obtain the general esteem, 



72 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

and avoid lampooning and libeling, to which he 
thought I had too much inclination; telling irie, that 
by steady industry and a prudent parsimony I might 
save enough by the time I was one-and-twenty to 
set me up; and that, if I came near the matter, he 
would help me out with the rest. This was all I 
could obtain, except some small gifts as tokens of his 
and my mother's love, when I embark' d again for 
New York, now with their approbation and their 
blessing. 

The sloop putting in at Newport, Rhode Island, 
I visited my brother John, who had been married 
and settled there some years. He received me very 
affectionately, for he always lov'd me. A friend of 
his, one Vernon, having some money due to him in 
Pensilvania, about thirty- five pounds currency, de- 
sired I would receive it for him, and keep it till I had 
his directions what to remit it in. Accordingly, he 
gave me an order. This afterwards oceasion'd me a 
good deal of uneasiness. 

At Newport w T e took in a number of passengers 
for New York, among which were two young women, 
companions, and a grave, sensible, matronlike Quaker 
woman, with her attendants. I had shown an oblig- 
ing readiness to do her some little services, which 
impress' d her I suppose with a degree of good will 
toward me; therefore, when she saw a daily growing 
familiarity between me and the two young women, 
which they appear' d to encourage, she took me aside, 
and said, " Young man, I am concern' d for thee, 
as thou has no friend with thee, and seems not to 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 73 

know much of the world, or of the snares youth is 
expos' d to; depend upon it, those are very bad women; 
I can see it in all their actions; and if thee art not 
upon thy guard, they will draw thee into some danger; 
they are strangers to thee, and I advise thee, in a 
friendly concern for thy welfare, to have no acquaint- 
ance with them." As I seem'd at first not to think 
so ill of them as she did, she mentioned some things 
she had observ'd and heard that had escap'd my 
notice, but now convinc'd me she was right. I thank' d 
her for her kind advice, and promis'd to follow it. 
When we arriv'd at New York, they told me where 
they hVd, and invited me to come and see them; but 
I avoided it, and it was well I did; for the next day 
the captain miss'd a silver spoon and some other 
things, that had been taken out of his cabbin, . . . got 
a warrant to search their lodgings, found the stolen 
goods, and had the thieves punish' d. So, tho' we had 
escap'd a sunken rock, which we scrap' d upon in the 
passage, I thought this escape of rather more impor- 
tance to me. 

At New York I found my friend Collins, who had 
arriv'd there some time before me. We had been 
intimate from children, and had read the same books 
together; but he had the advantage of more time 
for reading and studying, and a wonderful genius 
for mathematical learning, in which he far outstript 
me. W 7 hile I liv'd in Boston, most of my hours of 
leisure for conversation were spent with him, and 
he continu'd a sober as well as an industrious lad; 
was much respected for his learning by several of 



74 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

the clergy and other gentlemen, and seemed to prom- 
ise making a good figure in life. But, during my 
absence, he had acquir'd a habit of sotting with 
brandy; and I found by his own account, and what 
I heard from others, that he had been drunk every 
day since his arrival at Xew York, and behav'd very 
oddly. He had gam'd, too, and lost his money, 
so that I was oblig'd to discharge his lodgings, and 
defray his expenses to and at Philadelphia, which 
prov'd extremely inconvenient to me. 

The then governor of Xew York, Burnet (son 
of Bishop Burnet), hearing from the captain that 
a young man, one of his passengers, had a great 
many books, desir'd he would bring me to see him. 
I waited upon him accordingly, and should have 
taken Collins with me but that he was not sober. 
The gov'r. treated me with great civility, show'd 
me his library, which was a very large one, and we 
had a good deal of conversation about books and 
authors. This was the second governor who had 
done me the honor to take notice of me; which, to a 
poor boy like me, was very pleasing. 

We proceeded to Philadelphia. I received on the 
way Vernon's money, without which we could hardly 
have finish' d our journey. Collins wished to be 
employ' d in some counting-house; but, whether they 
dis cover' d his dramming by his breath, or by his 
behaviour, tho' he had some recommendations, he 
met with no success in any application, and con- 
tinu'd lodging and boarding at the same house with 
me, and at my expense. Knowing I had that money 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 75 

of Vernon's, he was continually borrowing of me, 
still promising repayment as soon as he should be in 
business. At length he had got so much of it that I 
was distressed to think what I should do in case of 
being call'd on to remit it. 

His drinking continu'd, about which we some- 
times quarrel' d; for, when a little intoxicated, he 
was very fractious. Once, in a boat on the Dela- 
ware with some other young men, he refused to row 
in his turn. "I will be row'd home/' says he. "We 
will not row you," says I. "You must, or stay all 
night on the water," says he, "just as you please." 
The others said, "Let us row; what signifies it?" 
But, my mind being soured with his other conduct, I 
continu'd to refuse. So he swore he would make me 
row, or throw me overboard; and coming along, 
stepping on the thwarts, toward me, when he came 
up and struck at me, I clapped my hand under his 
crutch, and, rising, pitched him head-foremost into 
the river. I knew he was a good swimmer, and so 
was under little concern about him; but before he 
could get round to lay hold of the boat, we had with 
a few strokes pull'd her out of his reach; and ever 
when he drew near the boat, we ask'd if he would 
row, striking a few strokes to slide her away from 
him. He w T as ready to die with vexation, and ob- 
stinately would not promise to row. However, seeing 
him at last beginning to tire, we lifted him in and 
brought him home dripping wet in the evening. We 
hardly exchang'd a civil word afterwards, and a 
West India captain, who had a commission to pro- 



76 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

cure a tutor for the sons of a gentleman at Barbadoes, 
happening to meet with him, agreed to carry him 
thither. He left me then, promising to remit me 
the first money he should receive in order to discharge 
the debt; but I never heard of him after. 

The breaking into this money of Vernon's was 
one of the first great errata of my life; and this affair 
show'd that my father was not much out in his judg- 
ment when he suppos'd me too young to manage 
business of importance. But Sir William, on read- 
ing his letter, said he was too prudent. There was 
great difference in persons; and discretion did not 
always accompany years, nor was youth always 
without it. "And since he will not set you up," 
says he, "I will do it myself. Give me an inven- 
tory of the things necessary to be had from England, 
and I will send for them. You shall repay me when 
you are able; I am resolv'd to have a good printer 
here, and I am sure you must succeed." This was 
spoken with such an appearance of cordiality, that 
I had not the least doubt of his meaning what he 
said. I had hitherto kept the proposition of my 
setting up, a secret in Philadelphia, and I still kept 
it. Had it been known that I depended on the gov- 
ernor, probably some friend, that knew him better, 
would have advis'd me not to rely on him, as I after- 
wards heard it as his known character to be liberal 
of promises which he never meant to keep. Y T et, 
unsolicited as he was by me, how could I think his 
generous offers insincere? I belie v'd him one of 
the best men in the world. 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 77 

I presented him an inventory of a little print'g- 
house, amounting by my computation to about one 
hundred pounds sterling. He lik'd it, but ask'd 
me if my being on the spot in England to chuse the 
types, and see that every thing was good of the kind, 
might not be of some advantage. "Then," says 
he, "when there, you may make acquaintances, and 
establish correspondences in the bookselling and 
stationery way." I agreed that this might be ad- 
vantageous. "Then," says he, "get yourself ready 
to go with Annis;" which was the annual ship, and 
the only one at that time usually passing between 
London and Philadelphia. But it would be some 
months before Annis sail'd, so I continu'd working 
with Keimer, fretting about the money Collins had 
got from me, and in daily apprehensions of being 
call'd upon by Vernon, which, however, did not hap- 
pen for some years after. 

I believe I have omitted mentioning that, in my 
first voyage from Boston, being becalm' d off Block 
Island, our people set about catching cod, and hauled 
up a great many. Hitherto I had stuck to my reso- 
lution of not eating animal food, and on this occa- 
sion I consider' d, with my master Tryon, the taking, 
every fish as a kind of unprovoked murder, since 
none of them had, or ever could do us any injury 
that might justify the slaughter. All this seemed 
very reasonable. But I had formerly been a great 
lover of fish, and, when this came hot out of the frying- 
pan, it smelt admirably well. I balanc'd some time 
between principle and inclination, till I recollected 



78 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

that, when the fish were opened, I saw smaller fish 
taken out of their stomachs; then thought I, "If 
you eat one another, I don't see why we mayn't eat 
you/' So I din'd upon cod very heartily, and con- 
tinued to eat with other people, returning only now 
and then occasionally to a vegetable diet. So con- 
venient a thing it is to be a reasonable creature, since 
it enables one to find or make a reason for every 
thing one has a mind to do. 

Keimer and I liv'd on a pretty good familiar foot- 
ing, and agreed tolerably well, for he suspected noth- 
ing of my setting up. He retained a great deal of 
his old enthusiasms and lov'd argumentation. ^Ye 
therefore had many disputations. I used to work 
him so with my Socratic method, and had trepann'd 
him so often by questions apparently so distant from 
any point we had in hand, and yet by degrees lead 
to the point, and brought him into difficulties and 
contradictions, that at last he grew ridiculously cau- 
tious, and would hardly answer me the most com- 
mon question, without asking first, "What do you 
intend to infer from that?" However, it gave him 
so high an opinion of my abilities in the confuting 
way, that he seriously proposed my being his col- 
league in a project he had of setting up a new sect. 
He was to preach the doctrines, and I was to con- 
. found all opponents. When he came to explain 
with me upon the doctrines, I found several conun- 
drums which I objected to, unless I might have my 
way a little too, and introduce some of mine. 

Keimer wore his beard at full length, because some- 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 79 

where in the Mosaic law it is said. " Thou slialt not 
mar the corners of thy beard." He likewise kept 
the Seventh day, Sabbath; and these two points 
were essentials with him. I dislik'd both; but agreed 
to admit them upon condition of his adopting the 
doctrine of using no animal food. "I doubt," said 
he, "my constitution will not bear that." I assur'd 
, him it would, and that he would be the better for 
it. He was usually a great glutton, and I promised 
myself some diversion in half starving him. He 
agreed to try the practice, if I would keep him com- 
pany. I did so, and we held it for three months. 
We had our victuals dress' d, and brought to us regu- 
larly by a woman in the neighborhood, who had 
from me a list of forty dishes, to be prepar'd for us 
at different times, in all which there was neither 
fish, flesh, nor fowl, and the whim suited me the 
better at this time from the cheapness of it, not cost- 
ing us above eighteen pence sterling each per week. 
I have since kept several Lents most strictly, leaving 
the common diet for that, and that for the common, 
abruptly, without the least inconvenience, so that I 
think there is little in the advice of making those 
changes by easy gradations. I went on pleasantly, 
but poor Keimer suffered grievously, tired of the 
project, long'd for the flesh-pots of Egypt, and order' d 
a roast pig. He invited me and two women friends 
to dine with him; but, it being brought too soon 
upon the table, he could not resist the temptation, 
and ate the whole before we came. 

I had made some courtship during this time to 



80 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

Miss Read. I had a great respect and affection for 
her, and had some reason to believe she had the 
same for me; but, as I was about to take a long voy- 
age, and we were both very young, only a little above 
eighteen, it was thought most prudent by her mother 
to prevent our going too far at present, as a marriage, 
if it was to take place, would be more convenient 
after my return, when I should be, as I expected, 
set up in my business. Perhaps, too, she thought 
my expectations not so well founded as I imagined 
them to be. 

My chief acquaintances at this time were Charles 
Osborne, Joseph Watson, and James Ralph, all 
lovers of reading. The two first were clerks to an 
eminent scrivener or conveyancer in the town, Charles 
Brogden; the other was clerk to a merchant. Wat- 
son was a pious, sensible young man, of great integrity; 
the others rather more lax in their principles of reli- 
gion, particularly Ralph, who, as well as Collins, had 
been unsettled by me, for which they both made me 
suffer. Osborne was sensible, candid, frank; sin- 
cere and affectionate to his friends, but, in literary 
matters, too fond of criticising. Ralph was ingenious, 
genteel in his manners, and extremely eloquent; I 
think I never knew a prettier talker. Both of them 
great admirers of poetry, and began to try their hands 
in little pieces. Many pleasant walks we four had 
together on Sundays into the woods, near Schuylkill, 
where we read to one another, and conferr'd on what 
we read. 

Ralph was inclined to pursue the study of poetry, 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 81 

not doubting but he might become eminent in it, 
and make his fortune by it, alleging that the best 
poets must, when they first began to write, make as 
many faults as he did. Osborne dissuaded him, 
assur'd him he had no genius for poetry, and ad- 
vis' d him to think of nothing beyond the business 
he was bred to; that, in the mercantile way, tho' he 
had no stock, he might, by his diligence and punctu- 
ality, recommend himself to employment as a factor, 
and in time acquire wherewith to trade on his own 
account. I appro v'd the amusing one's self with 
poetry now and then, so far as to improve one's lan- 
guage, but no farther. 

On this it was propos'd that we should each of 
us, at our next meeting, produce a piece of our own 
composing, in order to improve by our mutual ob- 
servations, criticisms, and corrections. As language 
and expression were what we had in view, we ex- 
cluded all considerations of invention by agreeing 
that the task should be a version of the eighteenth 
Psalm, which describes the descent of a Deity. When 
the time of our meeting drew nigh, Ralph called on 
me first, and let me know his piece was ready. I 
told him I had been busy, and, having little inclina- 
tion, had done nothing. He then show'd me his 
piece for my opinion, and I much appro v'd it, as it 
appear' d to me to have great merit. "Now," says 
he, "Osborne never will allow the least merit in any 
thing of mine, but makes 1000 criticisms out of mere 
envy. He is not so jealous of you; I wish, therefore, 
you would take this piece, and produce it as yours; 



82 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

I will pretend not to have had time, and so produce 
nothing. We shall then see what he will say to it." 
It was agreed, and I immediately transcribe it, 
that it might appear in my own hand. 

We met; Watson's performance was read; there 
were some beauties in it, but many defects. Os- 
borne's was read; it was much better; Ralph did it 
justice; remarked some faults, but applauded the 
beauties. He himself had nothing to produce. I 
was backward; seemed desirous of being excused; 
had not had sufficient time to correct, etc.; but no 
excuse could be admitted; produce I must. It was 
read and repeated; Watson and Osborne gave up 
the contest, and join'd in applauding it. Ralph 
only made some criticisms, and propos'd some amend- 
ments; but I defended my text. Osborne was against 
Ralph, and told him he was no better a critic than 
poet, so he dropt the argument. As they two went 
home together, Osborne expressed himself still more 
strongly in favor of what he thought my production; 
having restrain' d himself before, as he said, lest I 
should think it flattery. "But who would have 
imaging," said he, "that Franklin had been capable 
of such a performance; such painting, such force, 
such fire! He has even improv'd the original. In 
his common conversation he seems to have no choice 
of words; he hesitates and blunders; and yet, good 
God! how he writes!" When we next met, Ralph 
discovered the trick we had plaid him, and Osborne 
was a little laught at. 

This transaction fixed Ralph in his resolution of 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 83 

becoming a poet. I did all I could to dissuade him 
from it, but he continued scribbling verses till Pope 
cured him. 1 He became, however, a pretty good 
prose writer. More of him hereafter. But, as I 
may not- have occasion again to mention the other 
two, I shall just remark here, that Watson died in 
my arms a few years after, much lamented, being 
the best of our set. Osborne went to the West Indies, 
where he became an eminent lawyer and made money, 
but died young. He and I had made a serious agree- 
ment, that the one who happen' d first to die should, 
if possible, make a friendly visit to the other, and 
acquaint him how he found things in that separate 
state. But he never fulfill'd his promise. 

The governor, seeming to like my company, had 
me frequently to his house, and his setting me up 
was always mentioned as a fixed thing. I was to 
take with me letters recommendatory to a number 
of his friends, besides the letter of credit to furnish 
me with the necessary money for purchasing the 
press and types, paper, etc. For these letters I was 
appointed to call at different times, when they were 
to be ready; but a future time was still named. Thus 
he went on till the ship, whose departure too had 
been several times postponed, was on the point of 
sailing. Then, when I call'd to take my leave and 
receive the letters, his secretary, Dr. Bard, came 
out to me and said the governor was extremely busy 

1 Alexander Pope, in his Dunciad, a poetical satire upon contem- 
porary authors, writes thus: 

"Silence, ye wolves! while Ralph to Cynthia howls, 
And makes night hideous — answer him, ye owls." 



84 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

in writing, but would be down at Newcastle before 
the ship, and there the letters would be delivered 
to me. 

Ralph, though married, and having one child, 
had determined to accompany me in this voyage. 
It was thought he intended to establish a correspond- 
ence, and obtain goods to sell on commission; but I 
found afterwards, that, thro' some discontent with 
his wife's relations, he purposed to leave her on their 
hands, and never return again. Having taken leave 
of my friends, and interchang'd some promises with 
Miss Read, I left Philadelphia in the ship, which 
anchor' d at Newcastle. The governor was there; 
but w T hen I went to his lodging, the secretary came 
to me from him with the civillest message in the 
world, that he could not then see me, being engaged 
in business of the utmost importance, but should 
send the letters to me on board, wish'd me heartily 
a good voyage and a speedy return, etc. I returned 
on board a little puzzled, but still not doubting. 

Mr. Andrew Hamilton, a famous lawyer of Phila- 
delphia, had taken passage in the same ship for him- 
self and son, and with Mr. Denham, a Quaker mer- 
chant, and Messrs. Onion and Russel, masters of 
an iron work in Maryland, had engag'd the great 
cabin; so that Ralph and I were forced to take up 
with a berth in the steerage, and none on board know- 
ing us, were considered as ordinary persons. But 
Mr. Hamilton and his son (it was James, since gov- 
ernor) return' d from Newcastle to Philadelphia, the 
father being recall' d by a great fee to plead for a 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 85 

seized ship; and, just before we sail'd, Colonel French 
corning on board, and showing me great respect, 
I was more taken notice of, and, with my friend 
Ralph, invited by the other gentlemen to come into 
the cabin, there being now room. Accordingly, 
we remov'd thither. 

Understanding that Colonel French had brought 
on board the governor's despatches, I ask'd the cap- 
tain for those letters that were to be under my care. 
He said all were put into the bag together and he 
could not then come at them; but, before we landed 
in England, I should have an opportunity of picking 
them out; so I was satisfied for the present, and we 
proceeded on our voyage. We had a sociable com- 
pany in the cabin, and lived uncommonly well, having 
the addition of all Mr. Hamilton's stores, who had 
laid in plentifully. In this passage Mr. Denham 
contracted a friendship for me that continued during 
his life. The voyage was otherwise not a pleasant 
one, as we had a great deal of bad w T eather. 

When we came into the Channel, the captain kept 
his word with me, and gave me an opportunity of 
examining the bag for the governor's letters. I 
found none upon which ihy name was put as under 
my care. I picked out six or seven, that, by the 
handwriting, I thought might be the promised let- 
ters, especially as one of them was directed to Basket, 
the king's printer, and another to some stationer. 
We arriv'd in London the 24th of December, 1724. 
I waited upon the stationer, who came first in my 
way, delivering the letter as from Governor Keith. 



86 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

"I don't know such a person," says he; but, opening 
the letter, "O! this is from Riddlesden. I have 
lately found him to be a compleat rascal, and I will 
have nothing to do with him, nor receive any letters 
from him." So, putting the letter into my hand, 
he turn'd on his heel and left me to serve some cus- 
tomer. I was surprized to find these were not the 
governor's letters; and, after recollecting and com- 
paring circumstances, I began to doubt his sincerity. 
I found my friend Denham, and opened the whole 
affair to him. He let me into Keith's character; 
told me there was not the least probability that he 
had written any letters for me; that no one, who knew 
him, had the smallest dependence on him; and he 
laught at the notion of the governor's giving me a 
letter of credit, having, as he said, no credit to give. 
On my expressing some concern about what I should 
do, he advised me to endeavor getting some employ- 
ment in the way of my business. " Among the printers 
here," said he, "you will improve yourself, and when 
you return to America, you will set up to greater 
advantage." 

We" both of us happen'd to know, as well as the 
stationer, that Riddlesden/ the attorney, was a very 
knave. He had half ruin'd Miss Read's father by 
persuading him to be bound for him. 1 By this letter 
it appeared there was a secret scheme on foot to the 
prejudice of Hamilton (suppos'd to be then coming 
over with us); and that Keith was concerned in it 
with Riddlesden. Denham, who was a friend of 

* To go as security for the payment of his note. 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 87 

Hamilton's, thought he ought to be acquainted with 
it; so, when he arriv'd in England, which was soon 
after, partly from resentment and ill-will to Keith 
and Riddlesden, and partly from good-will to him, I 
waited on him, and gave him the letter. He thank' d 
me cordially, the information being of importance 
to him; and from that time he became my friend, 
greatly to my advantage afterwards on many occa- 
sions. 

But what shall we think of a governor s playing 
such pitiful tricks, and imposing so grossly on a poor 
ignorant boy! It was a habit he had acquired. He 
wish'd to please everybody; and, having little to 
give, he gave expectations. He was otherwise an 
ingenious, sensible man, a pretty good writer, and 
a good governor for the people, tho' not for his con- 
stituents, the proprietaries, whose instructions he 
sometimes disregarded. Several of our best laws 
were of his planning and passed during his admin- 
istration. 

Ralph and I were inseparable companions. We 
took lodgings together in Little Britain 1 at three 
shillings and sixpence a week — as much as we could 
then afford. He found some relations, but they 
were poor, and unable to assist him. He now let 
me know his intentions of remaining in London, 
and that he never meant to return to Philadelphia. 
He had brought no money with him, the whole he 

1 A very old section of London, situated in the center of the city, 
and called Little Britain because it was formerly the residence of the 
Dukes of Brittany. For an interesting description of this district con- 
sult the essay entitled Little Britain in Irving's Sketch Book. 



88 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

could muster having been expended in paying his 
passage. I had fifteen pistoles; 1 so he borrowed 
occasionally of me to subsist, while he was looking 
out for business. He first endeavored to get into 
the playhouse, believing himself qualify'd for an 
actor; but Wilkes, 2 to whom he apply' d, advis'd 
him candidly not to think of that employment, as it 
was impossible he should succeed in it. Then he 
propos'd to Roberts, a publisher in Paternoster Row, 3 
to write for him a weekly paper like the Spectator, 
on certain conditions, which Roberts did not ap- 
prove. Then he endeavored to get employment as 
a hackney writer, to copy for the stationers and law- 
yers about the Temple, but could find no vacancy. 
I immediately got into work at Palmer's, then a 
famous printing-house in Bartholomew Close, 4 and 
here I continu'd near a year. I was pretty diligent, 
but spent with Ralph a good deal of my earnings in 
going to plays and other places of amusement. We 
had together consumed all my pistoles, and now just 
rubbed on from hand to mouth. He seem'd quite 
to forget his wife and child, and I, by degrees, my 
engagements with Miss Read, to whom I never wrote 
more than one letter, and that was to let her know 
I was not likely soon to return. This was another 



1 The Spanish pistole was a gold coin worth about four dollars of 
our money. 

2 A comedian of that day, manager of Drury Lane Theater. 

3 A street just north of St. Paul's Cathedral, lined with publishing 
houses. 

4 A court due north of Paternoster Row and, like that street, 
largely occupied by publishers. 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 89 

of the great errata of my life, which I should wish 
to correct if I were to live it over again. In fact, 
by our expenses, I was constantly kept unable to 
pay my passage. 

At Palmer's I was employed in composing for the 
second edition of Wollaston's " Religion of Nature/ 5 
Some of his reasonings not appearing to me well 
founded, I wrote a little metaphysical piece in which 
I made remarks on them. It was entitled "A Dis- 
sertation on Liberty and Necessity, Pleasure and 
Pain." I inscribed it to my friend Ralph; I printed 
a small number. It occasioned my being more con- 
sider' d by Mr. Palmer as a young man of some in- 
genuity, tho' he seriously expostulated with me upon 
the principles of my pamphlet, which to him appear' d 
abominable. My printing this pamphlet was another 
erratum. 1 While I lodg'd in Little Britain, I made 
an acquaintance with one Wilcox, a bookseller, whose 
shop was at the next door. He had an immense 
collection of second-hand books. Circulating li- 
braries were not then in use; but we agreed that, 
on -certain reasonable terms, which I have now for- 
gotten, I might take, read, and return any of his 
books. This I esteem' d a great advantage, and I 
made as much use of it as I could. 

My pamphlet by some means falling into the hands 
of one Lyons, a surgeon, author of a book entitled 
"The Infallibility of Human Judgment/' it occa- 

1 In this pamphlet Franklin shocked the orthodox by denying the 
existence of virtue and vice and of a future state of rewards and 
punishments. As here intimated, Franklin lived to regret this youth- 
ful production. 



90 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

sioned an acquaintance between us. He took great 
notice of me, called on me often to converse on those 
subjects, carried me to the Horns, a pale alehouse 

in Lane, Cheapside, and introduced me to Dr. 

Mandeville, author of the "Fable of the Bees," who 
had a club there, of which he was the soul, being 
a most facetious, entertaining companion. Lyons, 
too, introduced me to Dr. Pemberton, at Batson's 
Coffee-house, who promised to give me an oppor- 
tunity, some time or other, of seeing Sir Isaac New- 
ton, of which I was extreamely desirous; but this 
never happened. 

I had brought over a few curiosities, among which 
the principal was a purse made of the asbestos, which 
purifies by fire. Sir Hans Sloane 1 heard of it, came 
to see me, and invited me to his house in Blooms- 
bury Square, where he show'd me all his curiosities, 
and persuaded me to let him add that to the number, 
for which he paid me handsomely. 

In our house there lodg'd a young woman, a mil- 
liner, who, I think, had a shop in the Cloisters. 2 
She had been genteelly bred, was sensible and lively, 
and of most pleasing conversation. Ralph read 
plays to her in the evenings, they grew intimate, 
she took another lodging, and he followed her. They 
liv'd together some time; but, he being still out of 
business, and her income not sufficient to maintain 

1 Sir Hans Sloane, an English physician, left to the nation, at his 
death in 1753, a large collection of books and specimens of natural 
history, which afterwards became the nucleus of the British Museum. 

2 Presumably the cloisters immediately adjoining the Charter-house, 
an historic school building, situated north of St. Paul's Cathedral. 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 91 

them with her child, he took a resolution of going 
from London, to try for a country school, which 
he thought himself well qualified to undertake, as 
he wrote an excellent hand, and was a master of 
arithmetic and accounts. This, however, he deemed 
a business below him, and confident of future 
better fortune, w T hen he should be unwilling to have 
it known that he once was so meanly employed, he 
changed his name, and did me the honor to assume 
mine; for I soon after had a letter from him, acquaint- 
ing me that he was settled in a small village (in 
Berkshire, I think it was, where he taught reading 
and writing to ten or a dozen boys, at sixpence each 

per week), recommending Mrs. T to my care, 

and desiring me to write to him, directing for Mr. 
Franklin, schoolmaster, at such a place. 

He continued to write frequently, sending me 
large specimens of an epic poem which he was then 
composing, and desiring my remarks and correc- 
tions. These I gave him from time to time, but 
endeavor' d rather to discourage his proceeding. 
One of Young's Satires 1 was then just published. I 
copy'd and sent him a great part of it, which set in 
a strong light the folly of pursuing the Muses with 
any hope of advancement by them. All was in 
vain; sheets of the poem continu'd to come by 

every post. In the mean time, Mrs. T , having 

on his account lost her friends and business, was 

1 Edward Young (1681-1765), best known as the author of Night 
Thoughts, also wrote satires under the title Love of Fame, the Uni- 
versal Passion. It is to a passage in one of these satires that Franklin 
is alluding. 



92 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

often in distresses, and us'd to send for me, and 
borrow what I could spare to help her out of them. 
I grew fond of her company, and, being at that time 
under no religious restraint, and presuming upon 
my importance to her, I attempted familiarities 
(another erratum) which she repuls'd with a proper 
resentment, and acquainted him with my behaviour. 
This made a breach between us; and, when he 
returned again to London, he let me know he 
thought I had cancell'd all the obligations he had 
been under to me. So I found I was never to ex- 
pect his repaying me what I lent to him, or ad vane' d 
for him. This, however, was not then of much 
consequence, as he was totally unable; and in the 
loss of his friendship I found myself relieved from a 
burthen. I now began to think of getting a little 
money beforehand, and, expecting better work, I 
left Palmer's to work at Watts's, near Lincoln's Inn 
Fields, 1 a still greater printing-house. Here I con- 
tinued all the rest of my stay in London. 

At my first admission into this printing-house I 
took to working at press, imagining I felt a want of 
the bodily exercise I had been us'd to in America, 
where presswork is mix'd with composing. I drank 
only water; the other workmen, near fifty in num- 
ber, were great guzzlers of beer. On occasion, I 
carried up and down stairs a large form of types in 
each hand, when others carried but one in both 
hands. They wondered to see, from this and sev- 
eral instances, that the Water- American, as they 

1 A square in London largely occupied by lawyers. 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 93 

called me, was stronger than themselves, who 
drank strong beer! We had an alehouse boy who 
attended always in the house to supply the work- 
men. My companion at the press drank every day 
a pint before breakfast, a pint at breakfast with his 
bread and cheese, a pint between breakfast and 
dinner, a pint at dinner, a pint in the afternoon 
about six o'clock, and another when he had done 
his day's work. I thought it a detestable custom, 
but it was necessary, he suppos'd, to drink strong 
beer, that he might be strong to labor. I endeavored 
to convince him that the bodily strength afforded by 
beer could only be in proportion to the grain or flour 
of the barley dissolved in the water of which it was 
made; that there was more flour in a pennyworth 
of bread; and therefore, if he would eat that with a 
pint of water, it would give him more strength than 
a quart of beer. He drank on, however, and had 
four or five shillings to pay out of his wages every 
Saturday night for that muddling liquor; an expense 
I was free from. And thus these poor devils keep 
themselves always under. 

Watts, after some weeks, desiring to have me in 
the composing-room, I left the pressmen; a new 
bien venu 1 or sum for drink, being five shillings, was 
demanded of me by the compositors. I thought it 
an imposition, as I had paid below; the master 

1 "The bien venu among the printers,'' writes William Temple 
Franklin, "answers to the terms entrance and footing among me- 
chanics; thus a journeyman, on entering a printing-house, was ac- 
customed to pay one or more gallons of beer for the good of the 
chapel." 



94 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

thought so too, and forbad my paying it. I stood 
out two or three weeks, was accordingly considered 
as an excommunicate, and had so many little pieces 
of private mischief done me, by mixing my sorts, 1 
transposing my pages, breaking my matter, 2 etc., 
etc., if I were ever so little out of the room, and all 
ascribed to the chappel 3 ghost, which they said ever 
haunted those not regularly admitted, that, notwith- 
standing the master's protection, I found myself 
oblig'd to comply and pay the money, convinced 
of the folly of being on ill terms with those one is 
to live with continually. 

I was now on a fair footing with them, and soon 
aequir'd considerable influence. I propos'd some 
reasonable alterations in their chappel laws, and 
carried them against all opposition. From my ex- 
ample, a great part of them left their muddling 
breakfast of beer, and bread, and cheese, finding they 
could with me be supply* d from a neighboring house 
w T ith a large porringer of hot water-gruel, sprinkled 
with pepper, crumb' d with bread, and a bit of but- 
ter in it, for the price of a pint of beer, viz., three 
half-pence. This was a more comfortable as well 
as cheaper breakfast, and kept their heads clearer. 
Those who continued sotting with beer all day, were 
often, by not paying, out of credit at the alehouse, 

1 Sorts is a term here applied, not, as on p. 105 to letters that are 
lacking, but to the different letters of the alphabet in the composi- 
tor's case. 

2 Type set up for printing. 

3 A printing-house is called a chapel in England and America pre- 
sumably because Caxton, the first English printer, did his printing in 
a chapel attached to Westminster Abbey. 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 95 

and us'd to make interest with me to get beer; their 
light, as they phrased it, being out. I watch' d the 
pay-table on Saturday night, and collected what I 
stood engag'd for them, having to pay sometimes 
near thirty shillings a week on their accounts. This, 
and my being esteem' d a pretty good riggite, that is, a 
jocular verbal satirist, supported my consequence in the 
society. My constant attendance (I never making a St. 
Monday 1 ) recommended me to the master; and my un- 
common quickness at composing occasioned my being 
put upon all work of dispatch, which was generally 
better paid. So I went on now very agreeably. 

My lodging in Little Britain being too remote, I 
found another in Duke-street, opposite to the Ro- 
mish Chapel. It was two pair of stairs backwards, 
at an Italian warehouse. A widow lady kept the 
house; she had a daughter, and a maid servant, and 
a journeyman who attended the warehouse, but 
lodg'd abroad. After sending to inquire my char- 
acter at the house where I last lodg'd, she agreed 
to take me in at the same rate, 3s. 6d. per week; 
cheaper, as she said, from the protection she ex- 
pected in having a man lodge in the house. She 
was a widow, an elderly woman: had been bred a 
Protestant, being a clergyman's daughter, but was 
converted to the Catholic religion by her husband, 
whose memory she much revered; had lived much 
among people of distinction, and knew a thousand 
anecdotes of them as far back as the times of Charles 

1 That is, never making a holiday or Saint's day of Monday, as 
other workmen did, who consumed Saturday's wages in drink. 



96 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

the Second. She was lame in her knees with the 
gout, and, therefore, seldom stirred out of her room, 
so sometimes wanted company; and hers was so 
highly amusing to me, that I was sure to spend an 
evening with her whenever she desired it. Our 
supper was only half an anchovy each, on a very 
little strip of bread and butter, and half a pint of ale 
between us; but the entertainment was in her con- 
versation. My always keeping good hours,, and 
giving little trouble in the family, made her unwill- 
ing to part with me; so that, when I talk'd of a lodg- 
ing I had heard of, nearer my business, for two shillings 
a week, which, intent as I now was on saving money, 
made some difference, she bid me not think of it, 
for she would abate me two shillings a week for the 
future; so I remained with her at one shilling and 
sixpence as long as I staid in London. 

In a garret of her house there lived a maiden lady 
of seventy, in the most retired manner, of whom 
my landlady gave me this account: that she was a 
Roman Catholic, had been sent abroad when young, 
and lodg'd in a nunnery with an intent of becoming 
a nun; but, the country not agreeing with her, she 
returned to England, where, there being no nunnery, 
she had vow'd to lead the life of a nun, as near as 
might be done in those circumstances. Accord- 
ingly, she had given all her estate to charitable uses, 
reserving only twelve pounds a year to live on, and 
out of this sum she still gave a great deal in charity, 
living herself on water-gruel only, and using no fire 
but to boil it. She had lived many years in that 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 97 

garret, being permitted to remain there gratis by 
successive Catholic tenants of the house below, as 
they deemed it a blessing to have her there. A priest 
visited her to confess her every day. "I have ask'd 
her/' says my landlady, "how she, as she liv'd, 
could possibly find so much employment for a con- 
fessor?" "Oh/' said she, "it is impossible to avoid 
vain thoughts" I was permitted once to visit her. 
She was chearful and polite, and convers'd pleas- 
antly. The room was clean, but had no other furni- 
ture than a matras, a table with a crucifix and book, 
a stool which she gave me to sit on, and a picture 
over the chimney of Saint Veronica displaying her 
handkerchief, with the miraculous figure of Christ's 
bleeding face on it, which she explained to me with 
great seriousness. She look'd pale, but was never 
sick; and I give it as another instance on how small 
an income, life and health may be supported. 

At Watts's printing-house I contracted an acquaint- 
ance with an ingenious young man, one Wygate, 
who, having wealthy relations, had been better edu- 
cated than most printers; was a tolerable Latinist, 
spoke French, and lov'd reading. I taught him 
and a friend of his to swim at twice going into the 
river, and they soon became good swimmers. They 
introduc d me to some gentlemen from the country, 
who went to Chelsea by water to see the College 
and Don Saltero's curiosities. 1 In our return, at the 

1 About the year 1690, John Salter established on Cheyne Walk, 
Chelsea, a combined eating-house and museum of natural curiosities, 
afterwards known as Don Saltero's coffee-house. 



98 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

request of the company, whose curiosity Wygate 
had excited, I stripped and leaped into the river, 
and swam from near Chelsea to Blackfryar's, per- 
forming on the way many feats of activity, both 
upon and under water, that surpris'd and pleas'd 
those to whom they were novelties. 

I had from a child been ever delighted with this 
exercise, had studied and practis'd all Thevenot's 1 
motions and positions, c\dded some of my own, aim- 
ing at the graceful and easy as well as the useful. 
All these I took this occasion of exhibiting to the 
company, and was much flatter' d by their admira- 
tion; and Wygate, who was desirous of becoming 
a master, grew more and more attach' d to me on 
that account, as well as from the similarity of our 
studies. He at length proposed to me travelling all 
over Europe together, supporting ourselves every- 
where by working at our business. I was once in- 
clined to it; but, mentioning it to my good friend 
Mr. Denham, with whom I often spent an hour 
when I had leisure, he dissuaded me from it, advis- 
ing me to think only of returning to Pennsilvania, 
which he was now about to do. 

I must record one trait of this good man's char- 
acter. He had formerly been in business at Bristol, 
but failed in debt to a number of people, compounded 
and went to America. There, by a close applica- 
tion to business as a merchant, he acquir'd a plen- 

1 Melchisedech Thevenot (1620-1692), a French traveler and 
librarian, wrote a treatise on swimming entitled De Vart de nager. 
The various "motions and positions" of the swimmer are there illus- 
trated in eight diagrams. 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 99 

tiful fortune in a few years. Returning to England 
in the ship with me, he invited his old creditors to 
an entertainment, at which he thank' d them for the 
easy composition they had favored him with, and 
when they expected nothing but the treat, every 
man at the first remove found under his plate an 
order on a banker for the full amount of the unpaid 
remainder with interest. 

He now told me he was about to return to Phila- 
delphia, and should carry over a great quantity of 
goods in order to open a store there. He propos'd 
to take me over as his clerk, to keep his books, in 
which he would instruct me, copy his letters, and 
attend the store. He added, that, as soon as I 
should be acquainted with mercantile business, he 
would promote me by sending me with a cargo of 
flour and bread, etc., to the West Indies, and procure 
me commissions from others which would be profit- 
able; and, if I manag'd well, would establish me 
handsomely. The thing pleas' d me; for I was grown 
tired of London, remembered with pleasure the 
happy months I had spent in Pennsylvania, and 
wish'd again to see it; therefore I immediately agreed 
on the terms of fifty pounds a year, Pennsylvania 
money; less, indeed, than my present gettings as a 
compositor, but affording a better prospect. 

I now took leave of printing, as I thought, for 
ever, and was daily employ' d in my new business, 
going about with Mr. Denham among the tradesmen 
to purchase various articles, and seeing them pack'd 
up, domg^errands, calling upon workmen to dis- 



100 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

patch, etc., and, when all was on board, I had a few 
days' leisure. On one of these days, I was, to my 
surprise, sent for by a great man I knew only by 
name, a Sir William Wyndham, and I waited upon 
him. He had heard by some means or other of my 
swimming from Chelsea to Blackfriar's, and of my 
teaching Wygate and another young man to swim 
in a few hours. He had two sons, about to set out 
on their travels; he wish'd to have them first taught 
swimming, and proposed to gratify me handsomely 
if I would teach them. They were not yet come 
to town, and my stay was uncertain, so I could not 
undertake it; but, from this incident, I thought it 
likely that, if I were to remain in England and open 
a swimming-school, I might get a good deal of money; 
and it struck me so strongly, that, had the over- 
ture been sooner made me, probably I should not 
so soon have returned to America. After many 
years, you and I had something of more importance 
to do with one of these sons of Sir William Wyndham, 
become Earl of Egremont, which I shall mention in 
its place. 

Thus I spent about eighteen months in London; 
most part of the time I work'd hard at my business, 
and spent but little upon myself except in seeing 
plays and in books. My friend Ralph had kept 
me poor; he owed me about twenty-seven pounds, 
which I was now never likely to receive; a great sum 
out of my small earnings! I lov'd him, notwith- 
standing, for he had many amiable qualities. I 
had by no means improv'd my fortune; but I had 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 101 

picked up some very ingenious acquaintance, whose 
conversation was of great advantage to me; and I 
had read considerably. 

We sail'd from Gravesend on the 23rd of July, 
1726. For the incidents of the voyage, I refer you 
to my Journal, where you will find them all minutely 
related. Perhaps the most important part of that 
journal is the 'plan 1 to be found in it, which I formed 
at sea, for regulating my future conduct in life. It 
is the more remarkable, as being formed when I 
was so young, and yet being pretty faithfully adhered 
to quite thro' to old age. 

We landed in Philadelphia on the 11th of Octo- 
ber, w 7 here I found sundry alterations. Keith was no 
longer governor, being superseded by Major Gordon. 
I met him walking the streets as a common citizen. 
He seem'd a little asham'd at seeing me, but pass'd 
without saying any thing. I should have been as 
much asham'd at seeing Miss Read, had not her 
friends, despairing with reason of my return after 
the receipt of my letter, persuaded her to marry 
another, one Rogers, a potter, which was done in 
my absence. With him, however, she w T as never 
happy, and soon parted from him, refusing to cohabit 
with him or bear his name, it being now said that 
he had another wife. He was a worthless fellow, 
tho' an excellent workman, which was the tempta- 
tion to her friends. He got into debt, ran away in 
1727 or 1728, went to the West Indies, and died 

1 Franklin's journal is lost, but the copy made at Reading in 1787 
contains no trace of the plan. 



102 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

there. Keimer had got a better house, a shop well 
supply' d with stationery, plenty of new types, a num- 
ber of hands, tho' none good, and seem'd to have 
a great deal of business. 

Mr. Denham took a store in AYater-street, where 
we open'd our goods; I attended the business dili- 
gently, studied accounts, and grew, in a little time, 
expert at selling. We lodg'd and boarded together; 
he counsell'd me as a father, having a sincere re- 
gard for me. I respected and lov'd him, and we 
might have gone on together very happy; but, in 
the beginning of February, 172f, when I had just 
pass'd my twenty-first year, we both were taken ill. 
My distemper was a pleurisy, which very nearly 
carried me off. I suffered a good deal, gave up the 
point in my own mind, and was rather disappointed 
when I found myself recovering, regretting, in some 
degree, that I must now, some time or other, have 
all that disagreeable work to do over again. I for- 
get what his distemper was; it held him a long time, 
and at length carried him off. He left me a small 
legacy in a nuncupative will, as a token of his kind- 
ness for me, and he left me once more to the wide 
world; for the store was taken into the care of his 
executors, and my employment under him ended. 

My brother-in-law, Holmes, being now at Phila- 
delphia, advised my return to my business; and 
Keimer tempted me, with an offer of large wages 
by the year, to come and take the management of 
his printing-house, that he might better attend his 
stationer's shop. I had heard a bad character of 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 103 

him in London from his wife and her friends, and 
was not fond of having any more to do with him. I 
tri'd for farther employment as a merchant's clerk; 
but, not readily meeting with any, I clos'd again 
with Keimer. I found in his house these hands: 
Hugh Meredith, a Welsh Pensilvanian, thirty years 
of age, bred to country work; honest, sensible, had 
a great deal of solid observation, was something of 
a reader, but given to drink. Stephen Potts, a young 
countryman of full age, bred to the same, of uncom- 
mon natural parts, and great wit and humor, but a 
little idle. These he had agreed with at extream 
low wages per week, to be rais'd a shilling every 
three months, as they would deserve by improving 
in their business; and the expectation of these high 
wages, to come on hereafter, was what he had drawn 
them in with. Meredith was to work at press, Potts 
at book-binding, which he, by agreement, was to 
teach them, though he knew neither one nor t'other. 
John , a wild Irishman, brought up to no busi- 
ness, whose sendee, for four years, Keimer had pur- 
chased from the captain of a ship; he, too, was to be 
made a pressman. George Webb, an Oxford scholar, 
whose time for four years he had likewise bought, 
intending him for a compositor, of whom more 
presently; and David Harry, a country boy, whom 
he had taken apprentice. 

I soon perceiv'd that the intention of engaging 
me at wages so much higher than he had been us'd 
to give, was, to have these raw, cheap hands form'd 
thro' me; and, as soon as I had instructed them, then 



104 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

they being all articled to him, he should be able to 
do without me. I went on, however, very cheerfully, 
put his printing-house in order, which had been in 
great confusion, and brought his hands by degrees 
to mind their business and to do it better. 

It was an odd thing to find an Oxford scholar in 
the situation of a bought servant. He was not more 
than eighteen years of age, and gave me this account of 
himself; that he was born in Gloucester, educated at a 
grammar-school there, had been distinguished among 
the scholars for some apparent superiority in perform- 
ing his part, when they exhibited plays; belong'd to 
the Witty Club there, and had written some pieces in 
prose and verse, which were printed in the Gloucester 
newspapers; thence he was sent to Oxford; where he 
continued about a year, but not well satisfi'd, wishing 
of all things to see London, and become a player. At 
length, receiving his quarterly allowance of fifteen 
guineas, instead of discharging his debts he walk'd out 
of town, hid his gown in a furze bush, and footed it 
to London, where, having no friend to advise him, 
he fell into bad company, soon spent his guineas, 
found no means of being introdue'd among the 
players, grew necessitous, pawn'd his cloaths, and 
wanted bread. Walking the street very hungry, 
and not knowing what to do with himself, a crimp's 1 
bill was put into his hand, offering immediate en- 
tertainment and encouragement to such as would 

1 In return for free transportation indigent passengers not infre- 
quently gave sea-captains the right to sell their services for a fixed 
term of years. 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 105 

bind themselves to serve in America. He went 
directly, sign'd the indentures, was put into the ship, 
and came over, never writing a line to acquaint his 
friends what was become of him. He was lively, 
witty, good-natur'd, and a pleasant companion, but 
idle, thoughtless, and imprudent to the last degree. 

John, the Irishman, soon ran away; with the rest 
I began to live very agreeably, for they all respected 
me the more, as they found Keimer incapable of 
instructing them, and that from me they learned 
something daily. We never worked on Saturday, that 
being Keimer's Sabbath, so I had two days for read- 
ing. My acquaintance with ingenious people in the 
town increased. Keimer himself treated me with great 
civility and apparent regard, and nothing now made 
me uneasy but my debt to Vernon, which I was yet 
unable to pay, being hitherto but a poor oeconomist. 
He, however, kindly made no demand of it. 

Our printing-house often wanted sorts, 1 and there 
was no letter-founder in America; I had seen types 
cast at James's in London, but without much atten- 
tion to the manner; however, I now contrived a mould, 2 
made use of the letters we had as puncheons, 3 struck 
the matrices 4 in lead, and thus supply' d in a pretty 

1 Characters lacking in a font of type. 

2 A metal frame adjusted by screws so as to hold matrices of 
varying width. 

3 A puncheon, now called a punch, is a bar of tempered steel at one 
end of which a configuration of the type to be cast is projected in 
relief. 

& Matrix is the term applied to the impression which the puncheon 
leaves when " struck" or driven into a flat piece of metal. Into this 
matrix molten metal is poured to form the various letters in a font 
of type. 



106 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

tolerable way all deficiencies. I also engrav'd several 
things on occasion; I made the ink; I was ware- 
house man, and everything, and, in short, quite a fac- 
totum. 

But, however serviceable I might be, I found that 
my services became every day of less importance, as 
the other hands improv'd in the business; and, when 
Keimer paid my second quarter's wages, he let me 
know that he felt them too heavy, and thought I 
should make an abatement. He grew by degrees 
less civil, put on more of the master, frequently found 
fault, was captious, and seem'd ready for an out- 
breaking. I went on, nevertheless, with a good 
deal of patience, thinking that his encumber' d cir- 
cumstances were partly the cause. At length a 
trifle snapt our connections; for, a great noise hap- 
pening near the court-house, I put my head out of 
the window to see what was the matter. Keimer, 
being in the street, look'd up and saw me, call'd out 
to me in a loud voice and angry tone to mind my 
business, adding some reproachful words, that net- 
tled me the more for their publicity, all the neigh- 
bors who were looking out on the same occasion, 
being witnesses how I was treated. He came up 
immediately into the printing-house, continu'd the 
quarrel, high words pass'd on both sides, he gave 
me the quarter's warning we had stipulated, ex- 
pressing a w T ish that he had not been oblig'd to so 
long a warning. I told him his wish was unneces- 
sary, for I would leave him that instant; and so, 
taking my hat, walk'd out of doors, desiring Mere- 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 107 

dith, whom I saw below, to take care of some things 
I left, and bring them to my lodgings. 

Meredith came accordingly in the evening, when 
we talked my affair over. He had conceiv'd a 
great regard for me, and was very unwilling that I 
should leave the house while he remain' d in it. He 
dissuaded me from returning to my native country, 
which I began to think of; he reminded me that 
Keimer was in debt for all he possess' d; that his 
creditors began to be uneasy; that he kept his shop 
miserably, sold often without profit for ready money, 
and often trusted without keeping accounts; that he 
must therefore fail, which would make a vacancy I 
might profit of. I objected my want of money. He 
then let me know that his father had a high opinion 
of me, and, from some discourse that had pass'd be- 
tween them, he was sure would advance money to 
set us up, if I would enter into partnership with him. 
"My time," says he, "will be out with Keimer in 
the spring; by that time we may have our press and 
types in from London. I am sensible I am no work- 
man; if you like it, your skill in the business shall 
be set against the stock I furnish, and we will share 
the profits equally." 

The proposal was agreeable, and I consented; 
his father was in town and appro v'd of it; the more 
as he saw I had great influence with his son, had 
prevail' d on him to abstain long from dram-drink- 
ing, and he hop'd might break him of that wretched 
habit entirely, when we came to be so closely con- 
nected. I gave an inventory to the father, who 



108 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

carry' d it to a merchant; the things were sent for, 
the secret was to be kept till they should arrive, and 
in the mean time I was to get work, if I could, at 
the other printing-house. But I found no vacancy 
there, and so remain'd idle a few days, when Keimer, 
on a prospect of being employ' d to print some paper 
money in New Jersey, which would require cuts and 
various types that I only could supply, and appre- 
hending Bradford might engage me and get the jobb 
from him, sent me a very civil message, that old friends 
should not part for a few words, the effect of sudden 
passion, and wishing me to return. Meredith per- 
suaded me to comply, as it would give more oppor- 
tunity for his improvement under my daily instructions ; 
so I return' d, and we went on more smoothly than 
for some time before. The New Jersey jobb was 
obtained, I contriv'd a copper-plate press for it, 
the first that had been seen in the country; I cut 
several ornaments and checks for the bills. We 
w r ent together to Burlington, where I executed the 
whole to satisfaction; and he received so large a sum 
for the work as to be enabled thereby to keep his 
head much longer above water. 

At Burlington I made an acquaintance with many 
principal people of the province. Several of them 
had been appointed by the Assembly a committee 
to attend the press, and take care that no more 
bills were printed than the law directed. They 
were therefore, by turns, constantly with us, and 
generally he who attended, brought with him a friend 
or two for company. My mind having been much 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 109 

more improv'd by reading than Keimer's, I suppose 
it was for that reason my conversation seem'd to be 
more valu'd. They had me to their houses, intro- 
duced me to their friends, and show'd me much 
civility; while he, tho' the master, was a little neglected. 
In truth, he was an odd fish; ignorant of common 
life, fond of rudely opposing receiv'd opinions, slovenly 
to extream dirtiness, enthusiastic in some points of 
religion, and a little knavish withal. 

We continu'd there near three months; and by 
that time I could reckon among my acquired friends, 
Judge Allen, Samuel Bustill, the secretary of the 
Province, Isaac Pearson, Joseph Cooper, and several 
of the Smiths, members of Assembly, and Isaac 
Decow, the surveyor-general. The latter was a 
shrewd, sagacious old man, who told me that he 
began for himself, when young, by wheeling clay 
for the brickmakers, learned to write after he was of 
age, carri'd the chain for surveyors, who taught him 
surveying, and he had now by his industry, acquir'd 
a good estate; and says he, "I forsee that you will 
soon work this man out of his business, and make 
a fortune in it at Philadelphia." He had not then 
the least intimation of my intention to set up there 
or anywhere. These friends were afterwards of 
great use to me, as I occasionally was to some of 
them. They all continued their regard for me as 
long as they lived. 

Before I enter upon my public appearance in 
business, it may be well to let you know the then 
state of my mind with regard to my principles and 



110 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

morals, that you may see how far those influenced 
the future events of my life. My parents had early 
given me religious impressions, and brought me 
through my childhood piously in the Dissenting 
way. But I was scarce fifteen, when, after doubt- 
ing by turns of several points, as I found them dis- 
puted in the different books I read, I began to doubt 
of Revelation itself. Some books against Deism 
fell into my hands; they were said to be the sub- 
stance of sermons preached at Boyle's Lectures. 1 
It happened that they wrought an effect on me quite 
contrary to what was intended by them; for the argu- 
ments of the Deists, which were quoted to be refuted, 
appeared to me much stronger than the refutations; 
in short, I soon became a thorough Deist. My 
arguments perverted some others, particularly Collins 
and Ralph; but, each of them having afterwards 
wrong' d me greatly without the least compunction, 
and recollecting Keith's conduct towards me (who 
was another freethinker), and my own towards Vernon 
and Miss Read, which at times gave me great trouble, 
I began to suspect that this doctrine, tho' it might 
be true, was not very useful. My London pamphlet, 2 
which had for its motto these lines of Dryden: 

"Whatever is, is right. Though purblind man 
Sees but a part o' the chain, the nearest link: 
His eyes not carrying to the equal beam, 
That poises all above;" 

1 A course of eight lectures in defense of Christianity, instituted 
in 1692 by an Irish nobleman, Robert Boyle, and delivered annually 
at St. Mary-le-Bow church, London. 

2 Entitled A Dissertation on Liberty and Necessity, Pleasure and 
Pain; already mentioned p. 89. 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 111 

and from the attributes of God, his infinite wisdom, 
goodness and power, concluded that nothing could 
possibly be wrong in the world, and that vice and 
virtue were empty distinctions, no such things exist- 
ing, appear' d now not so clever a performance as I 
once thought it; and I doubted whether some error 
had not insinuated itself unperceiv d into my argu- 
ment, so as to infect all that follow' d, as is common 
in metaphysical reasonings. 

I grew convinc'd that truth, sincerity and integ- 
rity in dealings between man and man were of the 
utmost importance to the felicity of life; and I form'd 
written resolutions, which still remain in my journal 
book, to practice them ever while I lived. Revela- 
tion had indeed no weight with me, as .such; but I 
entertain'd an opinion that, though certain actions 
might not be bad because they were forbidden by it, 
or good because it commanded them, yet probably 
those actions might be forbidden because they were 
bad for us, or commanded because they were bene- 
ficial to us, in their own natures, all the circumstances 
of things considered. And this persuasion, with the 
kind hand of Providence, or some guardian angel, 
or accidental favorable circumstances and situations, 
or all together, preserved me, thro' this dangerous 
time of youth, and the hazardous situations I was 
sometimes in among strangers, remote from the eye 
and advice of my father, without any willful gross 
immorality or injustice, that might have been ex- 
pected from my want of religion. I say willful, 
because the instances I have mentioned had some- 



112 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

thing of necessity in them, from my youth, inexperi- 
ence, and the knavery of others. I had therefore 
a tolerable character to begin the world with; I valued 
it properly, and determin'd to preserve it. 

We had not been long return' d to Philadelphia 
before the new types arriv'd from London. We 
settled with Keimer, and left him by his consent 
before he heard of it. We found a house to hire 
near the market, and took it. To lessen the rent, 
which was then but twenty-four pounds a year, tho' 
I have since known it to let for seventy, we took 
in Thomas Godfrey, a glazier, and his family, who 
were to pay a considerable part of it to us, and we to 
board with them. We had scarce opened our letters 
and put our. press in order, before George House, 
an acquaintance of mine, brought a countryman 
to us, whom he had met in the street inquiring for a 
printer. All our cash was now expended in the variety 
of particulars we had been obliged to procure, and 
this countryman's five shillings, being our first-fruits, 
and coming so seasonably, gave me more pleasure 
than any crown I have since earned; and the grati- 
tude I felt toward House has made me often more 
ready than perhaps I should otherwise have been to 
assist young beginners. 

There are croakers in every country, always bod- 
ing its ruin. Such a one then lived in Philadelphia; 
a person of note, an elderly man, with a wise look 
and a very grave manner of speaking; his name 
was Samuel Mickle. This gentleman, a stranger 
to me, stopt one day at my door, and asked me if 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 113 

I was the young man who had lately opened a new 
printing-house. Being answered in the affirmative, 
he said he was sorry for me, because it was an ex- 
pensive undertaking, and the expense would be lost; 
for Philadelphia was a sinking place, the people 
already hah bankrupts, or near being so; all appear- 
ances to the contrary, such as new buildings and the 
rise of rents, being to his certain knowledge fallacious; 
for they were, in fact, among the things that would 
soon ruin us. And he gave me such a detail of mis- 
fortunes now existing, or that were soon to exist, 
that he left me half melancholy. Had I known 
him before I engaged in this business, probably I 
never should have done it. This man continued 
to live in this decaying place, and to declaim in the 
same strain, refusing for many years to buy a house 
there, because all was going to destruction; and at 
last I had the pleasure of seeing him give five times 
as much for one as he might have bought it for when 
he first began his croaking. 

I should have mentioned before, that, in the au- 
tumn of the preceding year, I had form'd most of my 
ingenious acquaintance into a club of mutual im- 
provement, which we called the Junto; 1 we met on 
Friday evenings. The rules that I drew up re- 
quired that every member, in his turn, should pro- 
duce one or more queries on any point of Morals, 



1 The name Junto, a Spanish term used to designate a private coun- 
cil or cabal, usually of a political nature, was employed by the mem- 
bers of Franklin's club because their deliberations were of a secret 
character. 



114 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

Politics, or Natural Philosophy, to be discuss'd by 
the company; and once in three months produce 
and read an essay of his own writing, on any subject 
he pleased. Our debates were to be under the direc- 
tion of a president, and to be conducted in the sincere 
spirit of inquiry after truth, without fondness for 
dispute, or desire of victory; and, to prevent warmth, 
all expressions of positiveness in opinions, or direct 
contradiction, were after some time made contraband, 
and prohibited under small pecuniary penalties. 

The first members were Joseph Breintnal, a copyer 
of deeds for the scriveners, a good-natur'd, friendly, 
middle-ag'd man, a great lover of poetry, reading 
all he could meet with, and writing some that was 
tolerable; very ingenious in many little Nieknack- 
eries, and of sensible conversation. 

Thomas Godfrey, a self-taught mathematician, 
great in his way, and afterward inventor of what is 
now called Hadley's Quadrant. But he knew little 
out of his way, and was not a pleasing companion; 
as, like most great mathematicians I have met with, 
he expected universal precision in every thing said, 
or was for ever denying or distinguishing upon trifles, 
to the disturbance of all conversation. He soon 
left us. 

Nicholas Scull, a surveyor, afterward surveyor- 
general, who lov'd books, and sometimes made a 
few verses. 

William Parsons, bred a shoemaker, but, loving 
reading, had acquir'd a considerable share of mathe- 
matics, which he first studied with a view to astro]- 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 115 

ogy, but he afterwards laught at it. He also became 
surveyor-general. 

William Maugridge, a joiner, a most exquisite 
mechanic, and a solid, sensible man. 

Hugh Meredith, Stephen Potts, and George Webb 
I have characteriz'd before. 

Robert Grace, a young gentleman of some fortune, 
generous, lively, and witty; a lover of punning and 
of his friends. 

And William Coleman, then a merchant's clerk, 
about my age, who had the coolest, clearest head, 
the best heart, and the exactest morals of almost any 
man I ever met with. He became afterwards a 
merchant of great note, and one of our provincial 
judges. Our friendship continued without interrup- 
tion to his death, upward of forty years; and the 
club continued almost as long, and was the best 
school of philosophy, morality, and politics that 
then existed in the province; for our queries, which 
were read the week preceding their discussion, put 
us upon reading with attention upon the several sub- 
jects, that we might speak more to the purpose; 
and here, too, we acquired better habits of conver- 
sation, every thing being studied in our rules which 
might prevent our disgusting each other. From 
hence the long continuance of the club, which I shall 
have frequent occasion to speak further of hereafter. 

But my giving this account of it here is to show 
something of the interest I had, every one of these 
exerting themselves in recommending business to us. 
Breintnal particularly procur'd us from the Quakers 



116 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

the printing forty sheets of their history, the rest 
being to be done by Keimer; and upon this we 
work'd exceedingly hard, for the price was low. It 
was a folio, pro patria size, 1 in pica, with long primer 
notes. I compos'd of it a sheet a day, and Mere- 
dith worked it off at press; it was often eleven at 
night, and sometimes later, before I had finished my 
distribution for the next day's work, for the little 
jobbs sent in by our other friends now and then put 
us back. But so determin'd I was to continue doing 
a sheet a day of the folio, that one night, when, 
having impos'd my forms, 2 I thought my day's work 
over, one of them by accident was broken, and two 
pages reduced to pi, 3 I immediately distributed and 
compos'd it over again before I went to bed; and 
this industry, visible to our neighbors, began to give 
us character and credit; particularly, I was told, 
that mention being made of the new printing-office 
at the merchants' Every-night club, the genera] 
opinion was that it must fail, there being already 
two printers in the place, Keimer and Bradford; but 
Dr. Baird (whom you and I saw many years after 
at his native place, St. Andrew's in Scotland) gave 
a contrary opinion: "For the industry of that Frank- 
lin," says he, "is superior to anything I ever saw of 
the kind; I see him still at work when I go home 
from club, and he is at work again before his neigh- 

1 A sheet of paper 8£ x 13£ inches, having the words " pro-patria" 
as a water-mark. 

2 Arranged my pages on the imposing stone or table ready for 
printing. 

3 Reduced to complete disorder. 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 117 

bors are out of bed/' This struck the rest, and we 
soon after had offers from one of them to supply 
us with stationery; but as yet we did not chuse to 
engage in shop business. 

I mention this industry the more particularly and 
the more freely, tho' it seems to be talking in my 
own praise, that those of my posterity, who shall 
read it, may know the use of that virtue, when they 
see its effects in my favour throughout this relation. 

George Webb, who had found a female friend 
that lent him wherewith to purchase his time of 
Keimer, now came to offer himself as a journeyman 
to us. We could not then imploy him; but I fool- 
ishly let him know as a secret that I soon intended 
to begin a newspaper, and might then have work 
for him. My hopes of success, as I told him, were 
founded on this, that the then only newspaper, 
printed by Bradford, was a paltry thing, wretchedly 
manag'd, no way entertaining, and yet was profit- 
able to him; I therefore thought a good paper would 
scarcely fail of good encouragement. ' I requested 
Webb not to mention it; but he told it to Keimer, 
who immediately, to be beforehand with me, pub- 
lished proposals for printing one himself, on which 
Webb was to be employ'd. I resented this; and, 
to counteract them, as I could not yet begin our 
paper, I wrote several pieces of entertainment for 
Bradford's paper, under the title of the Busy Body, 
which Breintnal continued some months. By this 
means the attention of the publick was fixed on that 
paper, and Keimer' s proposals, which we burlesq'd 



118 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

and ridicul'd, were disregarded. He began his 
paper, however, and, after carrying it on three 
quarters of a year, with at most only ninety sub- 
scribers, he offer' d it to me for a trifle; and I, hav- 
ing been ready some time to go on with it, took it in 
hand directly; and it prov'd in a few years extremely 
profitable to me. 

I perceive that I am apt to speak in the singular 
number, though our partnership still continu'd; the 
reason may be that, in fact, the whole management 
of the business lay upon me. Meredith was no 
compositor, a poor pressman, and seldom sober. 
My friends lamented my connection with him, but I 
was to make the best of it. 1 

Our first papers made a quite different appearance 
from any before in the province; a better type, and 
better printed; but some spirited remarks of my 
writing, on the dispute then going on between 
Governor Burnet and the Massachusetts Assembly, 2 
struck the principal people, occasioned the paper 
and the manager of it to be much talk'd of, and 
in a few weeks brought them all to be our subscribers. 

Their example was follow 'd by many, and our 
number went on growing continually. This was 
one of the first good effects of my having learnt a 



1 I had to make the best of it. 

2 The dispute had reference to the way in which the royal governor 
should receive his salary from the Massachusetts Assembly. Burnet 
demanded a fixed salary of £1000, whereas the Assembly, fearing 
that the payment of a fixed salary would endanger its liberties, re- 
fused to pay such a salary but expressed its willingness to grant the 
governor a much larger sum voluntarily. 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 119 

little to scribble; another was, that the leading men, 
seeing a newspaper now in the hands of one who 
could also handle a pen, thought it convenient to 
oblige and encourage me. Bradford still printed 
the votes, and laws, and other publick business. 
He had printed an 'address of the House to the 
governor, in a coarse, blundering manner; we re- 
printed it elegantly and correctly, and sent one to 
every member. They were sensible of the differ- 
ence; it strengthened the hands of our friends in 
the House, and they voted us their printers for the 
year ensuing. 

Among my friends in the House I must not forget 
Mr. Hamilton, before mentioned, who was then 
returned from England, and had a seat in it. He 
interested himself for me strongly in that instance, 
as he did in many others afterward, continuing his 
patronage till his death. 

Mr. Vernon, about this time, put me in mind of 
the debt I ow'd him, but did not press me. I wrote 
him an ingenuous letter of acknowledgment, crav'd 
his forbearance a little longer, which he allow' d me, 
and as soon as I was able, I paid the principal with 
interest, and many thanks; so that erratum was in 
some degree corrected. 

But now another difficulty came upon me which 
I had never the least reason to expect. Mr. Mere- 
dith's father, who was to have paid for our printing- 
house, according to the expectations given me, was 
able to advance only one hundred pounds currency, 
which had been paid; and a hundred more was due 



120 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

to the merchant, who grew impatient, and su'd us 
all. We gave bail, but saw that, if the money could 
not be raisd in time, the suit must soon come to a 
judgment and execution, and our hopeful prospects 
must, with us, be ruined, as the press and letters 
must be sold for payment, perhaps at half price. 

In this distress two true friends, whose kindness I 
have never forgotten, nor ever shall forget while 
I can remember anything, came to me separately, 
unknown to each other, and, without any applica- 
tion from me, offering each of them to advance me 
all the money that should be necessary to enable 
me to take the whole business upon myself, if that 
should be practicable; but they did not like my con- 
tinuing the partnership with Meredith, who, as they 
said, was often seen drunk in the streets, and playing 
at low games in alehouses, much to our discredit. 
These two friends were William Coleman and Robert 
Grace. I told them I could not propose a separa- 
tion while any prospect remain' d of the Merediths' 
fulfilling their part of our agreement, because I 
thought myself under great obligations to them for 
what they had done, and would do if they could; 
but, if they finally fail'd in their performance, and 
our partnership must be dissolv'd, I should then think 
myself at liberty to accept the assistance of my friends. 

Thus the matter rested for some time, when I said 
to my partner, "Perhaps your father is dissatisfied 
at the part you have undertaken in this affair of 
ours, and is unwilling to advance for you and me 
what he would for you alone. If that is the case, 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 121 

tell me, and I will resign the whole to you, and go 
about my business. " ''No/' said he, "my father 
has really been disappointed, and is really unable; 
and I am unwilling to distress him farther. I see 
this is a business I am not fit for. I was bred a farmer, 
and it was a folly in me to come to town, and put 
myself, at thirty years of age, an apprentice to learn 
a new trade. Many of our ^Yelsh people are going 
to settle in North Carolina, where land is cheap. 
I am inclin'd to go with them, and follow my old 
employment. You may find friends to assist you. 
If you will take the debts of the company upon you; 
return to my father the hundred pound he has ad- 
vanced; pay my little personal debts, and give me 
thirty pounds and a new saddle, I will relinquish 
the partnership, and leave the whole in your hands.' ' 
I agreed to this proposal; it was drawn up in writ- 
ing, sign'd, and seal'd immediately. I gave him 
what he demanded, and he went soon after to Caro- 
lina, from whence he sent me next year two long 
letters, containing the best account that had been 
given of that country, the climate, the soil, husbandry, 
etc., for in those matters he was very judicious. I 
printed them in the papers, and they gave great 
satisfaction to the publick. 

As soon as he was gone, I recurr'd to my two 
friends; and because I would not give an unkind 
preference to either, I took half of what each had 
offered and I wanted of one, and half of the other; 
paid off the company's debts, and went on with the 
business in my own name, advertising that the part- 



122 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

nership was dissolved. I think this was in or about 
the year 1729. 

About this time there was a cry among the people 
for more paper money, only fifteen thousand pounds 
being extant in the province, and that soon to be 
sunk. 1 The wealthy inhabitants oppos'd any addi- 
tion, being against all paper currency, from an ap- 
prehension that it would depreciate, as it had done in 
New England, to the prejudice of all creditors. We 
had discuss'd this point in our Junto, where I was 
on the side of an addition, being persuaded that the 
first small sum struck in 1723 had done much good 
by increasing the trade, employment, and number 
of inhabitants in the province, since I now saw all 
the old houses inhabited, and many new ones build- 
ing: whereas I remembered well, that when I first 
walk'd about the streets of Philadelphia, eating my 
roll, I saw most of the houses in Walnut-street, be- 
tween Second and Front streets, with bills on their 
doors, "To be let;" and many likewise in Chestnut- 
street and other streets, which made me then think 
the inhabitants of the city were deserting it one after 
another. 

Our debates possess'd me so fully of the subject, 

1 That is, to be called in for redemption. The British Board of 
Trade, alarmed at repeated issues of paper money to defray the 
expenses of the French and Indian wars, had ordered that all out- 
standing issues should be recalled on March, 1731, and no further issues 
allowed. As appears, however, from what follows, Franklin disre- 
garded this order and, through the publication of his pamphlet 
entitled The Nature and Necessity of a Paper Currency, prevailed 
upon the Assembly not only to renew the old issue of £15,000 but to 
put out a new issue of £30,000 in addition. 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 123 

that I wrote and printed an anonymous pamphlet on 
it, entitled " The Nature and Necessity of a Paper 
Currency." It was well received by the common 
people in general; but the rich men dislik'd it, for 
it increased and strengthen'd the clamor for more 
money, and they happening to have no writers 
among them that were able to answer it, their oppo- 
sition slacken' d, and the point was carried by a 
majority in the House. My friends there, who con- 
ceiv'd I had been of some service, thought fit to re- 
ward me by employing me in printing the money; a 
very profitable jobb and a great help to me. This was 
another advantage gain'd by my being able to write. 

The utility of this currency became by time and 
experience so evident as never afterwards to be much 
disputed; so that it grew soon to fifty-five thousand 
pounds, and in 1739 to eighty thousand pounds, 
since which it arose during war to upwards of three 
hundred and fifty thousand pounds, trade, building, 
and inhabitants all the while increasing, tho' I now 
think there are limits beyond which the quantity 
may be hurtful. 

I soon after obtained, thro' my friend Hamilton, 
the printing of the Newcastle paper money, another 
profitable jobb as I then thought it; small things 
appearing great to those in small circumstances; 
and these, to me, were really great advantages, as 
they were great encouragements. He procured for 
me, also, the printing of the laws and votes of that 
government, which continu'd in my hands as long 
as I follow' d the business. 



124 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

I now open'd a little stationer's shop. I had in it 
blanks 1 of all sorts, the correctest that ever appear' d 
among us, being assisted in that by my friend 
Breintnal. I had also paper, parchment, chapmen's 
books, etc. One Whitemash, a compositor I had 
known in London, an excellent workman, now came 
to me, and work'd with me constantly and diligently; 
and I took an apprentice, the son of Aquila Rose. 

I began now gradually to pay off the debt I was 
under for the printing-house. In order to secure my 
credit and character as a tradesman, I took care not 
only to be in reality industrious and frugal, but to 
avoid all appearances to the contrary. I drest 
plainly; I was seen at no places of idle diversion. I 
never went out a fishing or shooting; a book, in- 
deed, sometimes debauch' d me from my work, but 
that was seldom, snug, and gave no scandal; and, 
to show that I was not above my business, I some- 
times brought home the paper I purchas'd at the 
stores thro' the streets on a wheelbarrow. Thus 
being esteem' d an industrious, thriving young man, 
and paying duly for what I bought, the merchants 
who imported stationery solicited my custom; others 
proposed supplying me with books, and I went on 
swimmingly. In the mean time, Keimer's credit 
and business declining daily, he was at last forc'd 
to sell his printing-house to satisfy his creditors. He 
went to Barbadoes, and there lived some years in 
very poor circumstances. 

1 Printed forms or documents with spaces left blank ; used in the 
drawing up of wills, contracts, conveyances, etc. 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 125 

His apprentice, David Harry, whom I had in- 
structed while I work'd with him, set up in his place 
at Philadelphia, having bought his materials. I 
was at first apprehensive of a powerful rival in Harry, 
as his friends were very able, and had a good deal 
of interest. I therefore proposed a partnership to 
him, which he, fortunately for me, rejected with scorn. 
He was very proud, dress' d like a gentleman, liv'd 
expensively, took much diversion and pleasure abroad, 
ran in debt, and neglected his business; upon which, 
all business left him; and, finding nothing to do, 
he follow' d Keimer to Barbadoes, taking the print- 
ing-house with him. There this apprentice em- 
ploy' d his former master as a journeyman; they 
quarrel' d often; Harry went continually behind- 
hand, and at length was forc'd to sell his types and 
return to his country work in Pensilvania. The 
person that bought them employed Keimer to use 
them, but in a few years he died. 

There remained now no competitor with me at 
Philadelphia but the old one, Bradford; who was 
rich and easy, did a little printing now and then by 
straggling hands, but was not very anxious about 
the business. However, as he kept the post-office, 
it was imagined he had better opportunities of ob- 
taining news; his paper was thought a better distrib- 
uter of advertisements than mine, and therefore 
had many more, which was a profitable thing to 
him, and a disadvantage to me; for, tho' I did indeed 
receive and send papers by the post, yet the publick 
opinion was otherwise, for what I did send was by 



126 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

bribing the riders, who took them privately, 1 Brad- 
ford being unkind enough to forbid it, which occasion' d 
some resentment on my part; and I thought so meanly 
of him for it, that, when I afterward came into his 
situation, I took care never to imitate it. 

I had hitherto continu'd to board with Godfrey, 
who lived in part of my house with his wife and 
children, and had one side of the shop for his 
glazier's business, tho' he worked little, being 
always absorbed in his mathematics. Mrs. Godfrey 
projected a match for me with a relation's daughter, 
took opportunities of bringing us often together, till 
a serious courtship on my part ensu'd, the girl being 
in herself very deserving. The old folks encour- 
ag'd me by continual invitations to supper, and by 
leaving us together, till at length it was time to ex- 
plain. Mrs. Godfrey manag'd our little treaty. I 
let her know that I expected as much money with 
their daughter as would pay off my remaining debt 
for the printing-house, which I believe was not then 
above a hundred pounds. She brought me word 
they had no such sum to spare; I said they might 
mortgage their house in the loan-office. The an- 
swer to this, after some days, was, that they did not 
approve the match; that, on inquiry of Bradford, 
they had been inform' d the printing business was 
not a profitable one; the types would soon be worn 

1 Newspapers then went through the mail free of charge and post- 
masters frequently excluded papers not printed by themselves. W T hen 
Franklin became Postmaster of Philadelphia in 1737, he did away 
with this abuse by imposing a charge upon newspapers and allowing 
papers printed by others to be carried at the same rate as his own. 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 127 

out, and more wanted; that S. Keimer and D. Harry 
had failed one after the other, and I should probably 
soon follow them; and, therefore, I was forbidden 
the house, and the daughter shut up. 

Whether this was a real change of sentiment or 
only artifice, on a supposition of our being too far 
engaged in affection to retract, and therefore that 
we should steal a marriage, which would leave them 
at liberty to give or withhold what they pleas' d, I 
know not; but I suspected the latter, resented it, 
and went no more. Mrs. Godfrey brought me after- 
ward some more favorable accounts of their dis- 
position, and would have drawn me on again; but 
I declared absolutely my resolution to have nothing 
more to do with that family. This was resented 
by the Godfreys; we differ' d, and they removed, 
leaving me the whole house, and I resolved to take 
no more inmates. 

But this affair having turned my thoughts to mar- 
riage, I look'd round me and made overtures of 
acquaintance in other places; but soon found that, 
the business of a printer being generally thought a 
poor one, I was not to expect money with a wife, 
unless with such a one as I should not otherwise 
think agreeable. ... A friendly correspondence as 
neighbors and old acquaintances had continued 
between me and Mrs. Read's family, who all had a 
regard for me from the time of my first lodging in 
their house. I was often invited there and consulted 
in their affairs, wherein I sometimes was of service. 
I piti'd poor Miss Read's unfortunate situation, who 



128 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

was generally dejected, seldom cheerful, and avoided 
company. I considered my giddiness and incon- 
stancy when in London as in a great degree the cause 
of her unhappiness, tho' the mother was good enough 
to think the fault more her own than mine, as she 
had prevented our marrying before I went thither, 
and persuaded the other match in my absence. Our 
mutual affection was revived, but there were now 
great objections to our union. The match 1 was in- 
deed looked upon as invalid, a preceding wife being 
said to be living in England; but this could not easily 
be prov'd, because of the distance; and, tho' there 
was a report of his death,. it was not certain. Then, 
tho' it should be true, he had left many debts, which 
his successor might be call'd upon to pay. We ven- 
tured, however, over all these difficulties, and I took 
her to wife, September 1st, 1730. None of the in- 
conveniences happened that we had apprehended; 
she proved a good and faithful helpmate, assisted 
me much by attending the shop; we throve together, 
and have ever mutually endeavor' d to make each 
other happy. Thus I corrected that great erratum 
as well as I could. 2 

1 Between Miss Read and the worthless Rogers, mentioned p. 101. 

2 Mrs. Franklin died December 19, 1774. She was a frugal, thrifty 
housewife, and, though an illiterate woman, had made Franklin an 
ideal help-mate. He, in his turn cherished for his "Dear Debby," 
as he playfully called her, a deep and constant affection, and once 
wrote her "it was a comfort to me to recollect that I had once been 
clothed from head to foot in woolen and linen of my wife's manufac- 
ture." Mrs. Franklin always refused to accompany her husband 
on his trips abroad, pleading sea-sickness as an excuse, but there 
can be little doubt that her extreme illiteracy operated as the 
chief deterrent. In his wife's honor Franklin wrote a song entitled 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 129 

About this time, our club meeting, not at a tavern, 
but in a little room of Mr. Grace's, set apart for that 
purpose, a proposition was made by me, that, since 
our books were often referr'd to in our disquisitions 
upon the queries, it might be convenient to us to 
have them altogether where we met, that upon occa- 
sion they might be consulted; and by thus clubbing 
our books to a common library, we should, while 
we lik'd to keep them together, have each of us the 
advantage of using the books of all the other mem- 
bers, which would be nearly as beneficial as if each 
owned the whole. It was lik'd and agreed to, and 
we filFd one end of the room with such books as we 
could best spare. The number was not so great 
as we expected; and tho' they had been of great use, 
yet some inconveniences occurring for want of due 
care of them, the collection, after about a year, was 
separated, and each took his books home again. 

And now I set on foot my first project of a public 
nature, that for a subscription library. I drew up 
the proposals, got them put into form by our great 
scrivener, Brockden, and, by the help of my friends 
jn the Junto, procured fifty subscribers of forty shil- 
lings each to begin with, and ten shillings a year for 
fifty years, the term our company was to continue. 
We afterwards obtain' d a charter, the company 

My Plain Country Joan, of which the following stanzas sufficiently 
vindicate the wisdom of Josiah Franklin's advice to his son not to 
become a poet : 

"Of their Chloes and Phyllises poets may prate, 

I sing my plain country Joan, 
These twelve years my wife, still the joy of my life, 
Blest day that I made her my own." 



130 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

being increased to one hundred: this was the mother 
of all the North American subscription libraries, 
now so numerous. 1 It is become a great thing itself, 
and continually increasing. These libraries have 
improved the general conversation of the Americans, 
made the common tradesman and farmers as in- 
telligent as most gentlemen from other countries, 
and perhaps have contributed in some degree to the 
stand so generally made throughout the colonies in 
defence of their privileges. 2 

At the time I establish' d myself in Pennsylvania, 
there was not a good bookseller's shop in any of the 
colonies to the southward of Boston. In New York 
and Philad'a the printers were indeed stationers; 
they sold only paper, etc., almanacs, ballads, and a 
few common school-books. Those who lov'd read- 

1 The collection of books started by Franklin and his friends after- 
wards became the Philadelphia Public Library. The books were at 
first housed in the chamber of one of Franklin's friends; they were 
then transferred to a room in the State House, later to one in Carpen- 
ter's Hall, and, finally, to the present library building, which in 1789 
was erected for their reception. 

2 At this point the first section of the Autobiography, written at 
Twyford, England, in 1771, ends. To it Franklin appended the fol- 
lowing memorandum: 

"Thus far was written with the intention express'd in the beginning 
and therefore contains several little family anecdotes of no impor- 
tance to others. What follows was written many years after in com- 
pliance with the advice contain'd in these letters, and accordingly 
intended for the public. The affairs of the Revolution occasioned 
the interruption." 

At the end of this memorandum he inserted two letters, from his 
friends James Abell and Benjamin Yaughan respectively, urging him 
to continue the record of his life beyond the point to which he had 
thus far carried it. Thereafter follows the second portion of the Auto- 
biography, written at Passy, France, in 1784. 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 131 

ing were oblig'd to send for their books from Eng- 
land; the members of the Junto had each a few. 
We had left the alehouse, where we first met, and 
hired a room to hold our club in. I propos'd that 
we should all of us bring our books to that room, 
where they would not only be ready to consult in 
our conferences, but become a common benefit, each 
of us being at liberty to borrow such as he wish'd 
to read at home. This was accordingly done, and 
for some time contented us. 

Finding the advantage of this little collection, I 
propos'd to render the benefit from books more com- 
mon, by commencing a public subscription library. 
I drew a sketch of the plan and rules that would be 
necessary, and got a skilful conveyancer, Mr. Charles 
Brockden, to put the whole in form of articles of 
agreement to be subscribed, by which each subscriber 
engag'd to pay a certain sum down for the first pur- 
chase of books, and an annual contribution for in- 
creasing them. So few were the readers at that 
time in Philadelphia, and the majority of us so poor, 
that I was not able, with great industry, to find more 
than fifty persons, mostly young tradesmen, willing 
to pay down for this purpose forty shillings each, 
and ten shillings per annum. On this little fund 
we began. The books were imported; the library 
was opened one day in the week for lending to the 
subscribers, on their promissory notes to pay double 
the value if not duly returned. The institution soon 
manifested its utility, was imitated by other towns, and 
in other provinces. The libraries were augmented by 



132 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

donations; reading became fashionable; and our people, 
having no publick amusements to divert their atten- 
tion from study, became better acquainted with books, 
and in a few years were observ'd by strangers to be 
better instructed and more intelligent than people of 
the same rank generally are in other countries. 

When we were about to sign the above-mentioned 
articles, which were to be binding on us, our heirs, 
etc., for fifty years, Mr. Brockden, the scrivener, 
said to us, "You are young men, but it is scarcely 
probable that any of you will live to see the expira- 
tion of the term fix'd in the instrument." A num- 
ber of us, however, are yet living; but the instrument 
was after a few years rendered null by a charter that 
incorporated and gave perpetuity to the company. 

The objections and reluctances I met with in so- 
liciting the subscriptions, made me soon feel the im- 
propriety of presenting one's self as the proposer of 
any useful project, that might be suppos'd to raise 
one's reputation in the smallest degree above that of 
one's neighbors, when one has need of their assist- 
ance to accomplish that project. I therefore put 
myself as much as I could out of sight, and stated it 
as a scheme of a number of friends, who had requested 
me to go about and propose it to such as they thought 
lovers of reading. In this way my affair went on 
more smoothly, and I ever after practis'd it on such 
occasions; and, from my frequent successes, can 
heartily recommend it. The present little sacrifice 
of your vanity will afterwards be amply repaid. If 
it remains a while uncertain to whom the merit be- 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 133 

longs, some one more vain than yourself will be 
encouraged to clam it, and then even envy will be 
disposed to do you justice by plucking those assumed 
feathers, and restoring them to their right owner. 

This library afforded me the means of improve- 
ment by constant study, for which I set apart an 
hour or two each day, and thus repair' d in some 
degree the loss of the learned education my father 
once intended for me. Reading was the only amuse- 
ment I allow' d myself. I spent no time in taverns, 
games, or frolicks of any kind; and my industry in 
my business continu'd as indefatigable as it was 
necessary. I was indebted for my printing-house; 
I had a young family coming on to be educated, and 
I had to contend with for business two printers, 
who were established in the place before me. My 
circumstances, however, grew daily easier. My origi- 
nal habits of frugality continuing, and my father 
having, among his instructions to me when a boy, 
frequently repeated a proverb of Solomon, "Seest 
thou a man diligent in his calling, he shall stand 
before kings, he shall not stand before mean men/' 
I from thence considered industry as a means of 
obtaining wealth and distinction, which encourag'd 
me, tho' I did not think that I should ever literally 
stand before kings, which, however, has since hap- 
pened; for I have stood before five, and even had 
the honor of sitting down with one, the King of Den- 
mark, to dinner. 1 

1 The five referred toby Franklin are George II and III of England, 
Louis XV and XVI of France, and Christian VII of Denmark. 



134 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

We have an English proverb that says, "He that 
would thrive, must ask his wife" It was lucky for 
me that I had one as much dispos'd to industry and 
frugality as myself. She assisted me cheerfully in 
my business, folding and stitching pamphlets, tend- 
ing shop, purchasing old linen rags for the paper- 
makers, etc., etc. We kept no idle servants, our table 
was plain and simple, our furniture of the cheapest. 
For instance, my breakfast was a long time bread 
and milk (no tea), and I ate it out of a twopenny 
earthen porringer, with a pewter spoon. But mark 
how luxury will enter families, and make a progress, 
in spite of principle: being calPd one morning to 
breakfast, I found it in a China bowl, with a spoon 
of silver! They had been bought for me without 
my knowledge by my wife, and had cost her the 
enormous sum of three-and-twenty shillings, for 
which she had no other excuse or apology to make, 
but that she thought her husband deserv'd a silver 
spoon and China bowl as well as any of his neighbors. 
This was the first appearance of plate and China 
in our house, which afterward, in a course of years, 
as our wealth increas'd, augmented gradually to 
several hundred pounds in value. 

I had been religiously educated as a Presbyterian; 
and tho' some of the dogmas of that persuasion, such 
as the eternal decrees of God, election, reprobation, 
etc., appeared to me unintelligible, others doubtful, 
and I early absented myself from the public assemblies 
of the sect, Sunday being my studying day, I never 
was without some religious principles. I never 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 135 

doubted, for instance, the existence of the Deity; 
that he made the world, and govern' d it by his Provi- 
dence; that the most acceptable service of God was 
the doing good to man; that our souls are immortal; 
and that all crime will be punished, and virtue re- 
warded, either here or hereafter. These I esteem' d 
the essentials of every religion; and, being to be 
found in all the religions we had in our country, I 
respected them all, tho' with different degrees of re- 
spect, as I found them more or less mix'd with other 
articles, which, without any tendency to inspire, 
promote, or confirm morality, serv'd principally to 
divide us, and make us unfriendly to one another. 
This respect to all, with an opinion that the worst 
had some good effects, indue' d me to avoid all dis- 
course that might tend to lessen the good opinion 
another might have of his own religion; and as our 
province increas'd in people, and new places of 
worship were continually wanted, and generally 
erected by voluntary contribution, my mite for such 
purpose, whatever might be the sect, was never re- 
fused. 

Tho' I seldom attended any public worship, I had 
still an opinion of its propriety, and of its utility 
when rightly conducted, and I regularly paid my 
annual subscription for the support of the only Pres- 
byterian minister or meeting we had in Philadelphia. 
He us'd to visit me sometimes as a friend, and ad- 
monish me to attend his administrations, and I was 
now and then prevail' d on to do so, once for five 
Sundays successively. Had he been in my opinion 



136 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

a good preacher, perhaps I might have continued, 
notwithstanding the occasion I had for the Sunday's 
leisure in my course of study; but his discourses 
were chiefly either polemic arguments, or explica- 
tions of the peculiar doctrines of our sect, and were 
all to me very dry, uninteresting, and unedifying, 
since not a single moral principle was inculcated or 
enforc'd, their aim seeming to be rather to make us 
Presbyterians than good citizens. 

At length he took for his text that verse of the 
fourth chapter of Philippians, "Finally, brethren, 
whatsoever tilings are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, 
or of good report, if there be any virtue, or any praise, 
think o?i these things" And I imagin'd, in a ser- 
mon on such a text, we could not miss of having some 
morality. But he confin'd himself to five points only, 
as meant by the apostle, viz.: 1. Keeping holy the 
Sabbath day. 2. Being diligent in reading the holy 
Scriptures. 3. Attending duly the publick worship. 
4. Partaking of the Sacrament. 5. Paying a due 
respect to God's ministers. These might be all good 
things; but, as they were not the kind of good things 
that I expected from that text, I despaired of ever 
meeting with them from any other, was disgusted, 
and attended his preaching no more. I had some 
years before compos'd a little Liturgy, or form of 
prayer, for my own private use (viz., in 1728), en- 
titled, Articles of Belief and Acts of Religion. I 
return' d to the use of this, and went no more to the 
public assemblies. My conduct might be blame- 
able, but I leave it, without attempting further to 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 137 

excuse it; my present purpose being to relate facts, 
and not to make apologies for them. 

It was about this time I conceiv'd the bold and 
arduous project of arriving at moral perfection. I 
wish'd to live without committing any fault at any 
time; I would conquer all that either natural incli- 
nation, custom, or company might lead me into. As 
I knew, or thought I knew, what was right and wrong, 
I did not see why I might not always do the one and 
avoid the other. But I soon found I had under- 
taken a task of more difficulty than I had imagined. 
While my care was employ' d in guarding against 
one fault, I was often surprised by another; habit 
took the advantage of inattention: inclination was 
sometimes too strong for reason. I concluded, at 
length, that the mere speculative conviction that 
it was our interest to be completely virtuous, was 
not sufficient to prevent our slipping; and that the 
contrary habits must be broken, and good ones ac- 
quired and established, before we can have any 
dependence on a steady, uniform rectitude of conduct. 
For this purpose I therefore contrived the following 
method. 

In the various enumerations of the moral virtues 
I had met with in my reading, I found the catalogue 
more or less numerous, as different writers included 
more or fewer ideas under the same name. Tem- 
perance, for example, was by some confined to eat- 
ing and drinking, while by others it was extended 
to mean the moderating every other pleasure, appe- 
tite, inclination, or passion, bodily or mental, even to 



138 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

our avarice and ambition. I propos'd to myself, for 
the sake of clearness, to use rather more names, with 
fewer ideas annex' d to each, than a few names 
with more ideas; and I included under thirteen names 
of virtues all that at that time occurr'd to me as neces- 
sary or desirable, and annexed to each a short pre- 
cept, which fully express' d the extent I gave to its 
meaning. 

These names of virtues, with their precepts were: 

1. Temperance. 
Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation. 

2. Silence. 
Speak not but what may benefit others or your- 
self; avoid trifling conversation. 

3. Order. 
Let all your things have their places; let each part 
of your business have its time. 

4. Resolution. 
Resolve to perform what you ought; perform with- 
out fail what you resolve. 

5. Frugality. 
Make no expense but to do good to others or your- 
self; i. e., waste nothing. 

6. Industry. 
Lose no time; be always employed in something use- 
ful; cut off all unnecessary actions. 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 139 

7. Sincerity. 

Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly 
and, if you speak, speak accordingly. 

8. Justice. 
Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the bene- 
fits that are your duty. 

9. Moderation. 

Avoid extreams; forbear resenting injuries so much 
as you think they deserve. 

10. Cleanliness. 

Tolerate no un cleanliness in body, cloaths, or 
habitation. 

11. Tranquillity. 

Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents com- 
mon or unavoidable. 

12. Chastity. 

13. Humility. 
Imitate Jesus and Socrates. 

My intention being to acquire the habitude of all 
these virtues, I judg'd it would be well not to dis- 
tract my attention by attempting the whole at once, 
but to fix it on one of them at a time; and, when I 
should be master of that, then to proceed to another, 
and so on, till I should have gone thro' the thirteen; 
and, as the previous acquisition of some might facili- 
tate the acquisition of certain others, I arrang'd 
them with that view, as they stand above. Tern- 



140 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

perance first, as it tends to procure that coolness and 
clearness of head, which is so necessary where con- 
stant vigilance was to be kept up, and guard main- 
tained against the unremitting attraction of ancient 
habits, and the force of perpetual temptations. This 
being acquired and establish' d, Silence would be 
more easy; and my desire being to gain knowledge 
at the same time that I improv'd in virtue, and con- 
sidering that in conversation it was obtain' d rather 
by the use of the ears than of the tongue, and there- 
fore wishing to break a habit I was getting into of 
prattling, punning, and joking, which only made me 
acceptable to trifling company, I gave Silence the 
second place. This and the next, Order, I expected 
would allow me more time for attending to my proj- 
ect and my studies. Resolution, once become habit- 
ual, would keep me firm in my endeavors to obtain 
all the subsequent virtues; Frugality and Industry 
freeing me from my remaining debt, and producing 
affluence and independence, would make more easy 
the practice of Sincerity and Justice, etc., etc. Con- 
ceiving then, that, agreeably to the advice of Pythag- 
oras in his Golden Verses, 1 daily examination would 
be necessary, I contrived the following method for 
conducting that examination. 

I made a little book, in which I allotted a page 
for each of the virtues. I rul'd each page with red 

1 The Golden Verses here attributed to the Greek philosopher 
Pythagoras (582?-500? b.c.) were in reality not written by him but 
by some unknown poet of the first century a.d. They consist of 
moral precepts, drawn principally from the early epic poetry of the 
Greeks. 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 



141 



ink, so as to have seven columns, one for each day 
of the week, marking each column with a letter for 
the day. I cross' d these columns with thirteen red 
lines, marking the beginning of each line with the 
first letter of one of the virtues, on which line, and 
in its proper column, I might mark, by a little black 
spot, every fault I found upon examination to have 
been committed respecting that virtue upon that 
day. 







Form of 


the pages. 






TEMPERANCE. 


EAT NOT TO DTTLNESS; 
DRINK NOT TO ELEVATION. 




S. 


M. 


T. 


w. 


T. 


F. 


S. 


T. 
















S. 


* 


* 




* 




* 




o. 


** 


* 


* 


t- 


* 


* 


R. 






* 




4 s 


% 




F. 




* 










I 






* 










S. 
















J. 

















M. 














C 
















T. 














C. 














H. 

















I determined to give a week's strict attention to 
each of the virtues successivelv. Thus, in the first 



142 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

week, my great guard was to avoid every the least 
offence against Temperance, leaving the other vir- 
tues to their ordinary chance, only marking every 
evening the faults of the day. Thus, if in the first 
week I could keep my first line marked T, clear of 
spots, I supposed the habit of that virtue so much 
strengthen' d, and its opposite weaken' d, that I might 
venture extending my attention to include the next, 
and for the following week keep both lines clear of 
spots. Proceeding thus to the last, I could go thro' 
a course compleat in thirteen weeks, and four courses 
in a year. And like him who, having a garden to 
weed, does not attempt to eradicate all the bad herbs 
at once, which would exceed his reach and his strength, 
but works on one of the beds at a time, and, having 
accomplish' d the first, proceeds to a second, so I 
should have, I hoped, the encouraging pleasure of 
seeing on my pages the progress I made in virtue, 
by clearing successively my lines of their spots, till 
in the end, by a number of courses, I should be happy 
in viewing a clean book, after a thirteen weeks' daily 
examination. 

This my little book had for its motto these lines 
from Addison's Cato: 1 

"Here will I hold. If there's a power above us 
(And that there is, all nature cries aloud 
Thro' all her works), He must delight in virtue; 
And that which he delights in must be happy." 

Another from Cicero, 

1 A tragedy by the English essayist Joseph Addison (1672-1719), 
filled with lofty sentiments rather frigidly expressed. 



OF BENJAMIN FRAXKLIX 143 

"0 vitae Philosophia dux! O virtutum indagatrix expul- 
trixque vitiorum! Unus dies, bene et ex prseceptis tuis 
actus, peccant i immortalitati est anteponendus." 

Another from the Proverbs of Solomon, speaking 
of wisdom or virtue: 

"Length of days is in her right hand, and in her left hand 
riches and honour. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, 
and all her paths are peace." iii. 16, 17. 

And conceiving God to be the fountain of wisdom, 
I thought it right and necessary to solicit his assist- 
ance for obtaining it; to this end I formed the follow- 
ing little prayer, which was prefix' d to my tables 
of examination, for daily use. 

"0 powerful Goodness! bountiful Father! merciful Guide! 
Increase in me that wisdom, which discovers my truest interest. 
Strengthen my resolutions to perform what that v^isdom dic- 
tates. Accept my kind offices to thy other children as the only 
return in my power for thy continual favours to me." 

I used also sometimes a little prayer which I took 
from Thomson's Poems, viz.: 

"Father of light and life, thou Good Supreme! 
O teach me what is good; teach me Thyself! 
Save me from folly, vanity and vice, 
From every low pursuit; and fill my soul 
With knowledge, conscious peace, and virtue pure; 
Sacred, substantial, never-fading bliss!" 

The precept of Order requiring that every part 
of my business should have its allotted time, one page 
in my little book contain 'd the following scheme 
of employment for the twenty-four hours of a natural 
day. 



144 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 



The Morning. 
Question. What good 
shall I do this day? 



8 
9 

10 
11 



Noon. 



hi 



Evening. 
Question. What good 
have I done to-day? 



Night. 



2 

3 

4 

5 

6 

7 

8 

9 

10 

11 

12 

1 

o 

3 

4 



Rise, wash, and address 
Powerful Goodness! Con- 
trive day's business, and 
take the resolution of the 
day; prosecute the pres- 
ent study, and breakfast. 

Work. 

Read, or overlook my 
accounts, and dine. 

Work. 



Put things in their pla- 
ces. Supper. Music or di- 
version, or conversation. 
Examination of the day. 



Sleep. 



I enter' d upon the execution of this plan for self- 
examination, and continu d it with occasional inter- 
missions for some time. I was surpris'd to find 
myself so much fuller of faults than I had imagined; 
but I had the satisfaction of seeing them diminish. 
To avoid the trouble of renewing now T and then my 
little book, which, by scraping out the marks on the 
paper of old faults to make room for new ones in a 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 145 

new course, became full of holes, I transferr'd my 
tables and precepts to the ivory leaves of a memo- 
randum book, on which the lines were drawn with 
red ink, that made a durable stain, and on those 
lines I mark'd my faults with a black-lead pencil, 
which marks I could easily wipe out with a wet sponge. 
After a while I went thro' one course only in a year, 
and afterward only one in several years, till at length 
I omitted them entirely, being employ' d in voyages 
and business abroad/ with a multiplicity of affairs 
that interfered; but I always carried my little book 
with me. 

My scheme of Order gave me the most trouble; 
and I found that, tho' it might be practicable where 
a man's business was such as to leave him the dis- 
position of his time, that of a journeyman printer, 
for instance, it was not possible to be exactly ob- 
served by a master, who must mix with the world, 
and often receive people of business at their own 
hours. Order, too, with regard to places for things, 
papers, etc., I found extreamly difficult to acquire. 
I had not been early accustomed to it, and, having 
an exceeding good memory, I was not so sensible 
of the inconvenience attending want of method. 
This article, therefore, cost me so much painful at- 
tention, and my faults in it vexed me so much, and I 
made so little progress in amendment, and had such 
frequent relapses, that I was almost ready to give 
up the attempt, and content myself with a faulty 
character in that respect, like the man who, in buy- 
ing an ax of a smith, my neighbour, desired to have 



146 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

the whole of its surface as bright as the edge. The 
smith consented to grind it bright for him if he would 
turn the wheel; he turn'd, while the smith press' d 
the broad face of the ax hard and heavily on the 
stone, which made the turning of it very fatiguing. 
The man came every now and then from the wheel 
to see how the work went on, and at length would 
take his ax as it was, without farther grinding. "No," 
said the smith, "turn on, turn on; we shall have it 
bright by-and-by; as yet, it is only speckled." "Yes," 
says the man, "but I think I like a speckled ax best. 1 ' 
And I believe this may have been the case with many, 
who, having, for want of some such means as I em- 
ploy' d, found the difficulty of obtaining good and 
breaking bad habits in other points of vice and virtue, 
have given up the struggle, and concluded that "a 
speckled ax was best;" for something, that pretended 
to be reason, was every now and then suggesting 
to me that such extream nicety as I exacted of my- 
self might be a kind of foppery in morals, which, if 
it were known, would make me ridiculous; that a 
perfect character might be attended with the incon- 
venience of being envied and hated; and that a benev- 
olent man should allow a few faults in himself, to 
keep his friends in countenance. 

In truth, I found myself incorrigible with respect 
to Order; and now I am grown old, and my memory 
bad, I feel very sensibly the want of it. But, on the 
whole, tho' I never arrived at the perfection I had 
been so ambitious of obtaining, but fell far short 
of it, yet I was, by the endeavour, a better and a 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 147 

happier man than I otherwise should have been 
if I had not attempted it; as those who aim at per- 
fect writing by imitating the engraved copies, tho' 
they never reach the wish'd-for excellence of those 
copies, their hand is mended by the endeavor, and 
is tolerable while it continues fair and legible. 

It may be well my posterity should be informed 
that to this little artifice, with the blessing of God, 
their ancestor ow'd the constant felicity of his life, 
down to his 79th year, in which this is written. 
What reverses may attend the remainder is in the 
hand of Providence; but, if they arrive, the reflec- 
tion on past happiness enjoy' d ought to help his 
bearing them with more resignation. To Temper- 
ance he ascribes his long-continued health, and what 
is still left to him of a good constitution; 1 to Industry 
and Frugality, the early easiness of his circumstances 
and acquisition of his fortune, with all that knowl- 
edge that enabled him to be a useful citizen, and ob- 
tained for him some degree of reputation among 
the learned; to Sincerity and Justice, the confidence 
of his country, and the honorable employs it conferred 
upon him; and to the joint influence of the whole 
mass of the virtues, even in the imperfect state he was 

1 In 1784, when this sentence was written, Franklin had begun to 
suffer from a series of attacks of gout, which eventually proved 
fatal. On his departure from France, in the following year, he was 
so prostrated by one of these attacks that he had to be carried 
on the royal litter from his residence at Passy to the sea-port town 
of Havre. For an amusing instance of the playfulness with which 
Franklin habitually regarded this ailment, students are advised to 
read the witty "Dialogue between Franklin and the Gout" in Selec- 
tions from the writings of Franklin by IT. Waldo Cutler, p. 132. 



148 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

able to acquire them, all that evenness of temper, 
and that cheerfulness in conversation, which makes 
his company still sought for, and agreeable even to 
his younger acquaintance. I hope, therefore, that 
some of my descendants may follow the example 
and reap the benefit. 

It will be remark' d that, tho' my scheme was not 
wholly without religion, there was in it no mark of 
any of the distinguishing tenets of any particular 
sect. I had purposely avoided them; for, being fully 
persuaded of the utility and excellency of my method, 
and that it might be serviceable to people in all reli- 
gions, and intending some time or other to publish 
it, I would not have any thing in it that should 
prejudice any one, of any sect, against it. I purposed 
writing a little comment on each virtue, in which I 
would have shown the advantages of possessing it, 
and the mischiefs attending its opposite vice; and I 
should have called my book The Art of Virtue, 
because it would have shown the means and manner 
of obtaining virtue, which would have distinguished 
it from the mere exhortation to be good, that does 
not instruct and indicate the means, but is like the 
apostle's man of verbal charity, who only without 
showing to the naked and hungry how or where 
they might get clothes or victuals, exhorted them to 
be fed and clothed. — James ii. 15, 16. 

But it so happened that my intention of writing 
and publishing this comment was never fulfilled. I 
did, indeed, from time to time, put down short hints 
of the sentiments, reasonings, etc., to be made use 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 149 

of in it, some of which I have still by me; but the 
necessary close attention to private business in the 
earlier part of my life, and public business since, have 
occasioned my postponing it; for, it being connected 
in my mind with a great and extensive project, that 
required the whole man to execute, and which an 
unforeseen succession of employs prevented my 
attending to, it has hitherto remain' d unfinish'd. 

In this piece it was my design to explain and en- 
force this doctrine, that vicious actions are not hurtful 
because they are forbidden, but forbidden because 
they are hurtful, the nature of man alone considered; 
that it was, therefore, every one's interest to be vir- 
tuous who wish'd to be happy even in this world; 
and I should, from this circumstance (there being 
always in the world a number of rich merchants, 
nobility, states, and princes, who have need of honest 
instruments for the management of their affairs, 
and such being so rare), have endeavored to convince 
young persons that no qualities were so likely to 
make a poor man's fortune as those of probity and 
integrity. 1 

My list of virtues contain' d at first but twelve; 
but a Quaker friend having kindly informed me that 
I was generally thought proud; that my pride show'd 
itself frequently in conversation; that I was not con- 

1 Franklin had no conception of virtue as its own reward. In a 
marginal note inserted at this point he writes "Nothing so likely 
to make a man's fortune as virtue." Thus to reduce virtue to a 
matter of dollars and cents is thoroughly characteristic of this worldly- 
minded philosopher. In Poor Richard's Almanac he recommends 
honesty because it is the "best policy.' , 



150 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

tent with being in the right when discussing any 
point, but was overbearing, and rather insolent, of 
which he convinc'd me by mentioning several in- 
stances; I determined endeavouring to cure myself, 
if I could, of this vice or folly among the rest, and 
I added Humility to my list, giving an extensive 
meaning to the word. 

I cannot boast of much success in acquiring the 
reality of this virtue, but I had a good deal with re- 
gard to the appearance of it. I made it a rule to 
forbear all direct contradiction to the sentiments of 
others, and all positive assertion of my own. I even 
forbid myself, agreeably to the old laws of our Junto, 
the use of every word or expression in the language 
that imported a fiVd opinion, such as certainly, un- 
doubtedly, etc., and I adopted, instead of them, / 
conceive, I apprehend, or / imagine a thing to be so 
or so; or it so appears to me at present. When an- 
other asserted something that I thought an error, 
I deny'd myself the pleasure of contradicting him 
abruptly, and of showing immediately some absurdity 
in his proposition; and in answering I began by ob- 
serving that in certain cases or circumstances his 
opinion would be right, but in the present case there 
appear d or seemd to me some difference, etc. I 
soon found the advantage of this change in my manner; 
the conversations I engag'd in went on more pleas- 
antly. The modest way in which I proposed my 
opinions procur'd them a readier reception and less 
contradiction; I had less mortification when I was 
found to be in the wrong, and I more easily prevail' d 



I 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 151 

with others to give up their mistakes and join with 
me when I happened to be in the right. 

And this mode, which I at first put on with some 
violence to natural inclination, became at length so 
easy, and so habitual to me, that perhaps for these 
fifty years past no one has ever heard a dogmatical 
expression escape me. And to this habit (after my 
character of integrity) I think it principally owning 
that I had early so much weight with my fellow- 
citizens when I proposed new institutions, or altera- 
tions in the old, and so much influence in public 
councils when I became a member; for I was but a 
bad speaker, never eloquent, subject to much hesi- 
tation in my choice of words, hardly correct in lan- 
guage, and yet I generally carried my points. 

In reality, there is, perhaps, no one of our natural 
passions so hard to subdue as pride. Disguise it, 
struggle with it, beat it down, stifle it, mortify it as 
much as one pleases, it is still alive, and will every 
now and then peep out and show itself; you will see 
it, perhaps, often in this history; for, even if I could 
conceive that I had compleatly overcome it, I should 
probably be proud of my humility. 1 

Having mentioned a great and extensive project 
which I had conceiv'd, 2 it seems proper that some 

1 At this point the second portion of the Autobiography, written 
at Passy, France, in 1784, ends. The two remaining portions were 
written after the author's return to Philadelphia in 1785, the first, in- 
cluding pp. 151-262, in 1788, the second, pp. 262-268 in 1789, within 
a few months of his death. 

2 Mentioned p. 149. 



152 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

account should be here given of that project and its 
object. Its first rise in my mind appears in the fol- 
lowing little paper, accidently preserv'd, viz.: 

Observations on my reading history, in Library, 
May 19th, 1731. 

"That the great affairs of the world, the wars, 
revolutions, etc., are carried on and effected by parties. 

"That the view of these parties is their present 
general interest, or what they take to be such. 

"That the different views of these different parties 
occasion all confusion. 

"That while a party is carrying on a general de- 
sign, each man has his particular private interest in 
view. 

"That as soon as a party has gain'd its general 
point, each member becomes intent upon his par- 
ticular interest; which, thwarting others, breaks that 
party into divisions, and occasions more confusion. 

"That few in public affairs act from a meer view 
of the good of their country, whatever they may pre- 
tend; and, tho' their actings bring real good to their 
country, yet men primarily considered that their 
own and their country's interest was united, and 
did not act from a principle of benevolence. 

"That fewer still, in public affairs, act with a view 
to the good of mankind. 

"There seems to me at present to be great occa- 
sion for raising a United Party for Virtue, by form- 
ing the virtuous and good men of all nations into a 
regular body, to be govern' d by suitable good and 
wise rules, which good and wise men may probably 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 153 

be more unanimous in their obedience to, than com- 
mon people are to common laws. 

"I at present think that whoever attempts this 
aright, and is well qualified, can not fail of pleasing 
God, and of meeting with success. B. F. 

Revolving this project in my mind, as to be under- 
taken hereafter, when my circumstances should 
afford me the necessary leisure, I put down from 
time to time, on pieces of paper, such thoughts as 
occurr'd to me respecting it. Most of these are 
lost; but I find one purporting to be the substance 
of an intended creed, containing, as I thought, the 
essentials of every known religion, and being free 
of everything that might shock the professors of 
any religion. It is express'd in these words, viz.: 

"That there is one God, who made all things. 

"That he governs the world by his providence. 

"That he ought to be worshiped by adoration, 
prayer, and thanksgiving. 

"But that the most acceptable service of God is 
doing good to man. 

"That the soul is immortal. 

"And that God will certainly reward virtue and 
punish vice, either here or hereafter/' 

My ideas at that time were, that the sect should 
be begun and spread at first among young and single 
men only; that each person to be initiated should 
not only declare his assent to such creed, but should 
have exercised himself with the thirteen weeks' ex- 
amination and practice of the virtues, as in the be- 
fore-mention'd model; that the existence of such a 



154 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

society should be kept a secret, till it was become 
co-nsiderable, to prevent solicitations for the admis- 
sion of improper persons, but that the members 
should each of them search among his acquaintance 
for ingenuous, well-disposed youths, to whom, with 
prudent caution, the scheme should be gradually 
communicated; that the members should engage to 
afford their advice, assistance, and support to each 
other in promoting one another's interests, business, 
and advancement in life; that, for distinction, we 
should be calFd The Society of the Free and Easy: 
free, as being, by the general practice and habit 
of the virtues, free from the dominion of vice; and 
particularly by the practice of industry and frugality, 
free from debt, which exposes a man to confinement, 
and a species of slavery to his creditors. 

This is as much as I can now recollect of the proj- 
ect, except that I communicated it in part to two 
young men, who adopted it with some enthusiasm; 
but my then narrow circumstances, and the neces- 
sity I was under of sticking close to my business, 
occasion' d my postponing the further prosecution of 
it at that time; and my multifarious occupations, 
public and private, indue' d me to continue postpon- 
ing, so that it has been omitted till I have no longer 
strength or activity left sufficient for such an enter- 
prise; tho' I am still of opinion that it was a practi- 
cable scheme, and might have been very useful, by 
forming a great number of good citizens; and I was 
not discourag'd by the seeming magnitude of the 
undertaking, as I have always thought that one 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 155 

man of tolerable abilities may work great changes, 
and accomplish great affairs among mankind, if he 
first forms a good plan, and, cutting off all amuse- 
ments or other employments that would divert his 
attention, makes the execution of that same plan his 
sole study and business. 

In 1732 I first publish'd my Almanack, under the 
name of Richard Saunders; it was continu'd by me 
about twenty -five years, commonly call'd Poor Richard's 
Almanac. 1 I endeavor'd to make it both entertain- 
ing and useful, and it accordingly came to be in such 
demand, that I reap'd considerable profit from it, 
vending annually near ten thousand. And observ- 
ing that it was generally read, scarce any neighbor- 
hood in the province being without it, I consider' d 



1 In Franklin's day almanacs were very numerous both in England 
and America. They then served somewhat the same purpose as the 
popular magazine of to-day, not being limited, as at present, to weather 
predictions, a statement of the phases of the moon, commercial 
statistics, etc., but containing also ballads, stories, proverbs, bits of 
popular science, jocose hits at rival almanac makers and other local 
celebrities, etc., They were widely distributed among the inhabitants 
by the mail-carriers and were thought to be as indispensable as 
the family Bible in every well-regulated household. Poor Richard's 
Almanac was begun in 1732 and continued until 1796, although 
Franklin ceased to write for it after his departure for England in 
1757. The title was derived by Franklin in part from Richard Saun- 
ders, the name of a famous English almanac maker of the day, and in 
part from Poor Robin, the title of an equally famous English almanac. 
Poor Richard abounds in witty aphorisms, "chiefly such as inculcate 
industry and frugality;" for example, "Little boats should keep near 
shore," "Creditors have good memories," "Keep thy shop and thy 
shop will keep thee." It was immensely popular, enjoying for some 
years a circulation of 10,000 copies a year and being translated into 
almost every European language. It was translated into French 
under the title Le Bon Homme Richard, whence Paul Jones derived 
the name of his man-of-war, the Bonhomme Richard. 



156 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

it as a proper vehicle for conveying instruction among 
the common people, who bought scarcely any other 
books; I therefore filled all the little spaces that occurr'd 
between the remarkable days in the calendar with 
proverbial sentences, chiefly such as inculcated in- 
dustry and frugality, as the means of procuring wealth, 
and thereby securing virtue; it being more difficult 
for a man in want, to act always honestly, as, to use 
here one of those proverbs, it is hard for an empty 
sack to stand upright. 

These proverbs, which contained the wisdom of 
many ages and nations, I assembled arid form'd into 
a connected discourse prefix' d to the Almanack of 
1757, as the harangue of a wise old man to the people 
attending an auction. 1 The bringing all these scatter' d 
counsels thus into a focus enabled them to make 
greater impression. The piece, being universally 
approved, was copied in all the newspapers of the 
Continent; reprinted in Britain on a broad side, to 
be stuck up in houses; two translations were made 
of it in French, and great numbers bought by the 
clergy and gentry, to distribute gratis among their 
poor parishioners and tenants. In Pennsylvania, 
as it discouraged useless expense in foreign super- 

1 This harangue, generally known either as Father Abraham's 
Speech or The Way to Wealth, gathers together, as Franklin intimates, 
the best of the many wise saws that had appeared in preceding num- 
bers of Poor Richard's Almanac. So great was the demand for the 
pamphlet that Franklin was obliged to reprint it as a broadside, and 
in this independent form it enjoyed probably the widest circulation 
of any work written in the eighteenth century, being translated into 
French. German, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Russian, 
Greek, Gaelic and Bohemian. 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 157 

fluities, some thought it had its share of influence 
in producing that growing plenty of money which 
was observable for several years after its publication. 

I considered my newspaper, 1 also, as another 
means of communicating instruction, and in that view 
frequently reprinted in it extracts from the Spectator, 
and other moral writers; and sometimes published 
little pieces of my own, which had been first com- 
pos'd for reading in our Junto. Of these are a So- 
cratic dialogue, tending to prove that, whatever might 
be his parts and abilities, a vicious man could not 
properly be called a man of sense; and a discourse on 
self-denial, showing that virtue was not secure till its 
practice became a habitude, and was free from the 
opposition of contrary inclinations. These may be 
found in the papers about the beginning of 1735. 

In the conduct of my newspaper, I carefully ex- 
cluded all libelling and personal abuse, which is of 
late years become so disgraceful to our country. 

1 Franklin's newspaper, The Pennsylvania Gazette, contains all his 
journalistic publications written after 1729. the year of its establish- 
ment, with the exception of those which appeared in Poor Richard's 
Almanac. Franklin employed the Gazette, much as he privately em- 
ployed the Junto, as a vehicle for influencing public opinion. For it he 
wrote not only a large number of playful papers dealing, like the 
earlier Silence Do-good and Busybody series, with the vices and follies 
of his countrymen, but also many articles on economic, political and 
scientific subjects. Thus whenever he wished to prepare the minds 
of the people for a reform, it was his custom to print, under the title 
PhUadelphus, Old Tradesman, or some other noncommittal signature, 
proposals for the reform in question, often such as he had already 
advocated before the Junto. It was, for example, by publishing in 
the Gazette an article entitled Plain Truth that he won the assent of 
the Quakers to the formation of a colonial militia for the defense of 
Pennsylvania. Although Franklin ceased to conduct the Gazette when 
he withdrew from printing in 1748, the paper lived on until 1819. 



158 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

Whenever I was solicited to insert any thing of that 
kind, and the writers pleaded, as they generally did, 
the liberty of the press, and that' a newspaper was 
like a stage-coach, in which any one who would pay 
had a right to a place, my answer was, that I would 
print the piece separately if desired, and the author 
might have as many copies as he pleased to distrib- 
uts himself, but that I would not take upon me to 
spread his detraction; and that, having contracted 
with my subscribers to furnish them with what might 
be either useful or entertaining, I could not fill their 
papers with private altercation, in which they had 
no concern, without doing them manifest injustice. 
Now, many of our printers make no scruple of grati- 
fying the malice of individuals by false accusations 
of the fairest characters among ourselves, augment- 
ing animosity even to the producing of duels; and are, 
moreover, so indiscreet as to print scurrilous reflec- 
tions on the government of neighboring states, and 
even on the conduct of our best national allies, 
which may be attended with the most pernicious 
consequences. These things I mention as a caution 
to young printers, and that they may be encouraged 
not to pollute their presses and disgrace their pro- 
fession by such infamous practices, but refuse stead- 
ily, as they may see by my example that such a course 
of conduct will not, on the whole, be injurious to 
their interests. 

In 1733 I sent one of my journeymen to Charles- 
ton, South Carolina, where a printer was wanting. 
I furnish' d him with a press and letters, on an agree- 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 159 

ment of partnership, by which I was to receive one- 
third of the profits of the business, paying one-third 
of the expense. He was a man of learning, and 
honest but ignorant in matters of account; and, tho' 
he sometimes made me remittances, I could get no 
account from him, nor any satisfactory state of our 
partnership while he lived. On his decease, the 
business was continued by his widow, who ; being 
born and bred in Holland, where, as I have , been 
inform' d, the knowledge of accounts makes a part 
of female education, she not only sent me as clear a 
state as she could find of the transactions past, but 
continued to account with the greatest regularity 
and exactness every quarter afterwards, and managed 
the business with such success, that she not only 
brought up reputably a family of children, but, at 
the expiration of the term, was able to purchase of 
me the printing-house, and establish her son in it. 

I mention this affair chiefly for the sake of recom- 
mending that branch of education for our young 
females, as likely to be of more use to them and their 
children, in case of widowhood, than either music 
or dancing, by preserving them from losses by im- 
position of crafty men, and enabling them to continue, 
perhaps, a profitable mercantile house, with estab- 
lish' d correspondence, till a son is grown up fit to 
undertake and go on with it, to the lasting advantage 
and enriching of the family. 

About the year 1734 there arrived among us from 
Ireland a young Presbyterian preacher, named Hemp- 
hill, who delivered with a good voice, and apparently 



160 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

extempore, most excellent discourses, which drew 
together considerable numbers of different persua- 
sions, who join'd in admiring them. Among the rest, 
I became one of his constant hearers, his sermons 
pleasing me, as they had little of the dogmatical 
kind, but inculcated strongly the practice of virtue, 
or what in the religious stile are called good works. 
Those, however, of our congregation, who considered 
themselves as orthodox Presbyterians, disapprov'd 
his doctrine, and were join'd by most of the old 
clergy, w T ho arraign' d him of heterodoxy before the 
synod, in order to have him silenc'd. I became 
his zealous partisan, and contributed all I could to 
raise a party in his favour, and we combated for 
him a while with some hopes of success. There 
was much scribbling pro and con upon the occasion; 
and rinding that, tho' an elegant preacher, he was 
but a poor writer, I lent him my pen and wrote for 
him two or three pamphlets, and one piece in the 
Gazette of April, 1735. Those pamphlets, as is 
generally the case with controversial writings, tho' 
eagerly read at the time, were soon out of vogue, 
and I question whether a single copy of them now 
exists. 

During the contest an unlucky occurrence hurt 
his cause exceedingly. One of our adversaries hav- 
ing heard him preach a sermon that was much ad- 
mired, thought he had somewhere read the sermon 
before, or at least a part of it. On search, he found 
that part quoted at length, in one of the British Re- 
views, from a discourse of Dr. Foster's. This de- 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 161 

tection gave many of our party disgust, who accordingly 
abandoned his cause, and occasion' d our more speedy 
discomfiture in the synod. I stuck by him, how- 
ever, as I rather approv'd his giving us good sermons 
composed by others, than bad ones of his own manu- 
facture, tho* the latter was the practice of our com- 
mon teachers. 1 He afterward acknowledg'd to me 
that none of those he preach'd were his own; adding, 
that his memory was such as enabled him to retain 
and repeat any sermon after one reading only. On 
our defeat, he left us in search elsewhere of better 
fortune, and I quitted the congregation, never join- 
ing it after, tho' I continu'd many years my sub- 
scription for the support of its ministers. 

I had begun in 1733 to study languages; I soon 
made myself so much a master of the French as to 
be able to read the books with ease. I then under- 
took the Italian. An acquaintance, who was also 
learning it, us'd often to tempt me to play chess with 
him. Finding this took up too much of the time I 
had to spare for study, I at length refus'd to play 
any more, unless on this condition, that the victor 
in every game should have a right to impose a task, 
either in parts of the grammar to be got by heart, 
or in translations, etc., which tasks the vanquish'd 

1 This very sensible preference for old sermons that are good over 
new sermons that are bad was not peculiar to Franklin. Addison, in 
the Sir Roger de Coverlej" Papers, makes the Spectator say "I could 
heartily wish that more of our country clergy , . . . instead of wasting 
their spirits in laborious compositions of their own, would endeavor 
after a handsome elocution, and all those other talents that are proper 
to enforce what has been penned by greater masters. This would 
not only be more easy to themselves but more edifying to the people." 



162 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

was to perform upon honour, before our next meet- 
ing. As we play'd pretty equally, we thus beat one 
another into that language. I afterwards with a 
little painstaking, acquir'd as much of the Spanish 
as to read their books also. 

I have already mention' d that I had only one 
year's instruction in a Latin school, and that when 
very young, after which I neglected that language 
entirely. But, when I had attained an acquaintance 
with the French, Italian, and Spanish, I was sur- 
priz'd to find, on looking over a Latin Testament, 
that I understood so much more of that language 
than I had imagined, which encouraged me to apply 
myself again to the study of it, and I met with more 
success, as those preceding languages had greatly 
smooth' d my way. 

From these circumstances, I have thought that 
there is some inconsistency in our common mode of 
teaching languages. We are told that it is proper 
to begin first with the Latin, and, having acquir'd 
that, it will be more easy to attain those modern 
languages which are deriv'd from it; and yet we do 
not begin with the Greek, in order more easily to 
acquire the Latin. It is true that, if you can clamber 
and get to the top of a staircase without using the 
steps, you will more easily gain them in descending; 
but certainly, if you begin with the lowest you will 
with more ease ascend to the top; and I would 
therefore offer it to the consideration of those who 
superintend the education of our youth, whether, 
since many of those who begin with the Latin quit 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 163 

the same after spending some years without hav- 
ing made any great proficiency, and what they have 
learnt becomes almost useless, so that their time 
has been lost, it would not have been better to have 
begun with the French, proceeding to the Italian, 
etc.; for, tho', after spending the same time, they 
should quit the study of languages and never arrive 
at the Latin, they would, however, have acquired 
another tongue or two, that, being in modern use, 
might be serviceable to them in common life. 

After ten years' absence from Boston, and having 
become easy in my circumstances, I made a journey 
thither to visit my relations, which I could not sooner 
well afford. In returning, I call'd at Newport to 
see my brother, then settled there with his printing- 
house. Our former differences were forgotten, and 
our meeting was very cordial and affectionate. He 
was fast declining in his health, and requested of me 
that, in case of his death, which he apprehended 
not far distant, I would take home his son, then but 
ten years of age, and bring him up to the printing 
business. This I accordingly perform' d, sending him 
a few years to school before I took him into the 
office. His mother carried on the business till he 
was grown up, when I assisted him with an assort- 
ment of new types, those of his father being in a 
manner worn out. Thus it was that I made my 
brother ample amends for the service I had depriv'd 
him of by leaving him so early. 

In 1736 I lost one of my sons, a fine boy of four 
years old, by the small-pox, taken in the common 



164 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

way. I long regretted bitterly, and still regret that 
I had not given it to him by inoculation. 1 This 
I mention for the sake of parents who omit that 
operation, on the supposition that they should never 
forgive themselves if a child died under it; my ex- 
ample showing that the regret may be the same either 
way, and that, therefore, the safer should be chosen. 
Our club, the Junto, was found so useful, and 
afforded such satisfaction to the members, that 
several were desirous of introducing their friends, 
which could not well be done without exceeding 
what we had settled as a convenient number, viz., 
twelve. We had from the beginning made it a rule 
to keep our institution a secret, which was pretty 
well observ'd; the intention was to avoid applica- 
tions of improper persons for admittance, some of 
whom, perhaps, we might find it difficult to refuse. 
I was one of those who were against any addition 
to our number, but, instead of it, made in writing a 
proposal, that every member separately should en- 
deavor to form a subordinate club, with the same 
rules respecting queries, etc., and without informing 
them of the connection with the Junto. The advan- 
tages proposed were, the improvement of so many 
more young citizens by the use of our institutions; 
our better acquaintance with the general sentiments 
of the inhabitants on any occasion, as the Junto 

1 Inoculation, which consisted in giving the smallpox to healthy 
persons, was much in vogue in Franklin's day, having been intro- 
duced into Europe from Turkey by a famous English author and 
lady of fashion, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, and warmly advo- 
cated in America bv Cotton Mather. 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 165 

member might propose what queries we should de- 
sire, and was to report to the Junto what pass'd in 
his separate club; the promotion of our particular 
interests in business by more extensive recommen- 
dation, and the increase of our influence in public 
affairs, and our power of doing good by spreading 
thro' the several clubs the sentiments of the Junto. 

The project was approv'd, and every member 
undertook to form his club, but they did not all suc- 
ceed. Five or six only were compleated, which 
were called by different names, as the Vine, the Union, 
the Band, etc. They were useful to themselves, 
and afforded us a good deal of amusement, informa- 
tion, and instruction, besides answering, in some 
considerable degree, our views of influencing the public 
opinion on particular occasions, of which I shall give 
some instances in course of time as they happened. 

My first promotion was my being chosen, in 1736, 
clerk of the General Assembly. The choice was 
made that year without opposition; but the year 
following, when I w T as again propos'd (the choice, 
like that of the members, being annual), a new mem- 
ber made a long speech against me, in order to favour 
some other candidate. I was, however, chosen, 
which was the more agreeable to me, as, besides 
the pay for the immediate service as clerk, the place 
gave me a better opportunity of keeping up an in- 
terest among the members, which secur'd to me the 
business of printing the votes, laws, paper money, 
and other occasional jobbs for the public, that, on 
the whole, were very profitable. 



166 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

I therefore did not like the opposition of this new 
member, who was a gentleman of fortune and edu- 
cation, with talents that were likely to give him, in 
time, great influence in the House, which, indeed, 
afterwards happened. I did not, however, aim at 
gaining his favour by paying any servile respect to 
him, but, after some time, took this other method. 
Having heard that he had in his library a certain 
very scarce and curious book, I wrote a note to him, 
expressing my desire of perusing that book, and 
requesting he would do me the favour of lending 
it to me for a few days. He sent it immediately, 
and I return' d it in about a week with another note, 
expressing strongly my sense of the favour. When 
we next met in the House, he spoke to me (which 
he had never done before), and with great civility; 
and he ever after manifested a readiness to serve 
me on all occasions, so that we became great friends, 
and our friendship continued to his death. This 
is another instance of the truth of an old maxim I 
had learned, which says, "He that has once done 
you a kindness will be more ready to do you another, 
than he whom you yourself have obliged." And it 
shows how much more profitable it is prudently 
to remove, than to resent, return, and continue inim- 
ical proceedings. 

In 1737, Colonel Spotswood, late governor of 
Virginia, and then postmaster-general, being dis- 
satisfied wdth the conduct of his deputy at Philadel- 
phia, respecting some negligence in rendering, and 
inexactitude of his accounts, took from him the com- 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 167 

mission and offered it to me. I accepted it readily, 
and found it of great advantage; for, tho' the salary 
was small, it facilitated the correspondence that 
improved my newspaper, increas'd the number de- 
manded, as well as the advertisements to be inserted, 
so that it came to afford me a considerable income. 
My old competitor's newspaper declin'd propor- 
tionably, and I was satisfy' d without retaliating his 
refusal, while postmaster, to permit my papers being- 
carried by the riders. Thus he suffer' d greatly 
from his neglect in due accounting; and I mention 
it as a lesson to those young men who may be em- 
ploy' d in managing affairs for others, that they should 
always render accounts, and make remittances, with 
great clearness and punctuality. The character of 
observing such a conduct is the most powerful of all 
recommendations to new employments and increase 
of business. 

I began now to turn my thoughts a little to public 
affairs, beginning, however, with small matters. 
The city watch was one of the first things that I con- 
ceiv'd to want regulation. It was managed by the 
constables of the respective wards in turn; the con- 
stable warned a number of housekeepers to attend 
him for the night. Those who chose never to attend, 
paid him six shillings a year to be excus'd, which 
was suppos'd to be lor hiring substitutes, but w T as, 
in reality, much more than was necessary for that 
purpose, and made the constableship a place of 
profit; and the constable, for a little drink, often got 
such ragamuffins about him as a watch, that respect- 



168 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

able housekeepers did not choose to mix with. Walk- 
ing the rounds, too, was often neglected, and most 
of the nights spent in tippling. I thereupon wrote 
a paper to be read in Junto, representing these irregu- 
larities, but insisting more particularly on the in- 
equality of this six-shilling tax of the constables, 
respecting the circumstances of those who paid it, 
since a poor widow housekeeper, all whose property 
to be guarded by the watch did not perhaps exceed 
the value of fifty pounds, paid as much as the wealth- 
iest merchant, who had thousands of pounds' worth 
of goods in his stores. 

On the whole, I proposed as a more effectual 
watch, the hiring of proper men to serve constantly 
in that business; and as a more equitable way of 
supporting the charge, the levying a tax that should 
be proportion' d to the property. This idea, being 
approv'd by the Junto, was communicated to the 
other clubs, but as arising in each of them; and though 
the plan was not immediately carried into execu- 
tion, yet, by preparing the minds of people for the 
change, it paved the way for the law obtained a few 
years after, when the members of our clubs were 
grown into more influence. 

About this time I wrote a paper (first to be read 
in Junto, but it was afterward publish' d) on the dif- 
ferent accidents and carelessnesses by which houses 
were set on fire, with cautions against them, and 
means proposed of avoiding them. This was much 
spoken of as a useful piece, and gave rise to a proj- 
ect, which soon followed it, of forming a company 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 169 

for the more ready extinguishing of fires, and mutual 
assistance in removing and securing of goods when 
in danger. Associates in this scheme were presently 
found, amounting to thirty. Our articles of agree- 
ment oblig'd every member to keep always in good 
order, and fit for use, a certain number of leather 
buckets, with strong bags and baskets (for packing 
and transporting of goods), which w T ere to be brought 
to every fire; and we agreed to meet once a month 
and spend a social evening together, in discoursing 
and communicating such ideas as occurred to us 
upon the subject of fires, as might be useful in our 
conduct on such occasions. 

The utility of this institution soon appeared, and 
many more desiring to be admitted than w r e thought 
convenient for one company, they were advised to 
form another, which was accordingly done; and this 
went on, one new company being formed after an- 
other, till they became so numerous as to include 
most of the inhabitants who were men of property; 
and now, at the time of my w T riting this, tho' upward 
of fifty years since its establishment, that which I 
first formed, called the Union Fire Company, 1 still 
subsists and flourishes, tho' the first members are all 
deceased but myself and one, who is older by a year 
than I am. The small fines that have been paid by 
members for absence at the monthly meetings have 
been apply' d to the purchase of fire-engines, lad- 

1 Volunteer fire-companies are even now found in many villages, 
especially in small college-towns ; in Franklin's day paid companies 
were entirely unknown, even in large cities. 



170 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

ders, fire-hooks, and other useful implements for 
each company, so that I question whether there is a 
city in the world better provided with the means of 
putting a stop to beginning conflagrations; and, in 
fact since these institutions, the city has never lost 
by fire more than one or two houses at a time, and 
the flames have often been extinguished before the 
house in which they began has been half consumed. 
In 1739 arrived among us from Ireland the Rev- 
erend Mr. 'Whitefield, 1 who had made himself re- 
markable there as an itinerant preacher. He was 
at first permitted to preach in some of our churches; 
but the clergy, taking a dislike to him, soon refus'd 
him their pulpits, and he was oblig'd to preach in 
the fields. The multitudes of all sects and denomi- 
nations that attended his sermons were enormous, 
and it was matter of speculation to me, who was one 
of the number, to observe the extraordinary influ- 
ence of his oratory on his hearers, and how much 
they admir'd and respected him, notwithstanding 
his common abuse of them, by assuring them they 
were naturally half beasts and half devils. It was 
wonderful to see the change soon made in the 
manners of our inhabitants. From being thought- 
less or indifferent about religion, it seem'd as if 
all the w 7 orld were growing religious, so that one 
could not walk thro' the town in an evening without 

1 George Whitefield (1714-1770) was a great revivalist preacher 
who shortly before the middle of the eighteenth century stirred the 
torpid British masses to a high pitch of religious enthusiasm. White- 
field made several preaching tours in America and died in Newbury- 
port. Massachusetts, in 1770. 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 171 

hearing psalms sung in different families of every 
street. 

And it being found inconvenient to assemble in 
the open air, subject to its inclemencies, the build- 
ing of a house to meet in was no sooner propos'd, 
and persons appointed to receive contributions, but 
sufficient sums were soon receiv'd to procure the 
ground and erect the building, which was one hun- 
dred feet long and seventy broad, about the size of 
Westminster Hall; 1 and the work was carried on 
with such spirit as to be finished in a much shorter 
time than could have been expected. Both house 
and ground were vested in trustees, expressly for 
the use of any preacher of any religious persuasion 
who might desire to say something to the people at 
Philadelphia; the design in building not being to 
accommodate any particular sect, but the inhabitants 
in general; so that even if the Mufti of Constanti- 
nople were to send a missionary to preach Moham- 
medanism to us, he would find a pulpit at his service. 

Mr. Whitefield, in leaving us, went preaching all 
the way thro' the colonies to Georgia. The set- 
tlement of that province had lately been begun, but, 
instead of being made with hardy, industrious hus- 
bandmen, accustomed to labor, the only people fit 
for such an enterprise, it was with families of broken 
shop-keepers and other insolvent debtors, many of 
indolent and idle habits, taken out of the jails, who, 

1 A building of great historical interest which adjoins the British 
Houses of Parliament and is used as a vestibule by members of Par- 
liament. Franklin here underestimates the length of the building, 
which is 290 feet ; its breadth is 68 feet and its height 92. 



172 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

being set down in the woods, unqualified for clear- 
ing land, and unable to endure the hardships of a 
new settlement, perished in numbers, leaving many 
helpless children unprovided for. 1 The sight of their 
miserable situation inspir'd the benevolent heart of 
Mr. Whitefield with the idea of building an Orphan 
House there, in which they might be supported and 
educated. Returning northward, he preach' d up 
this charity, and made large collections, for his elo- 
quence had a wonderful power over the hearts and 
purses of his hearers, of which I myself was an instance. 
I did not disapprove of the design, but, as Georgia 
was then destitute of materials and workmen, and 
it was proposed to send them from Philadelphia at a 
great expense, I thought it would have been better 
to have built the house here, and brought the chil- 
dren to it. This I advis'd; but he was resolute in 
his first project, rejected my counsel, and I there- 
fore refus'd to contribute. I happened soon after to 
attend one of his sermons, in the course of which I 
perceived he intended to finish with a collection, 
and I silently resolved he should get nothing from 
me. I had in my pocket a handful of copper money, 
three or four silver dollars, and five pistoles in gold. 
As he proceeded I began to soften, and concluded 
to give the coppers. Another stroke of his oratory 
made me asham'd of that, and determin'd me to 

1 Franklin appears not to appreciate the fact that the colony of 
Georgia was founded not as an industrial venture but simply for the 
very laudable object of providing a fresh start in life for that same 
"insolvent debtor " class which he here blames the ministry for send- 
ing thither. 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 173 

give the silver; and he finish' d so admirably, that I 
empty'd my pocket wholly into the collector's dish, 
gold and all. At this sermon there was also one of 
our club, who, being of my sentiments respecting 
the building in Georgia, and suspecting a collection 
might be intended, had, by precaution, emptied his 
pockets before he came from home. Towards the 
conclusion of the discourse, however, he felt a strong 
desire to give, and apply' d to a neighbour, who stood 
near him, to borrow some money for the purpose. 
The application was unfortunately [made] to perhaps 
the only man in the company who had the firmness 
not to be affected by the preacher. His answer 
was, "At any other time, Friend Hopkinson, I would 
lend to thee freely; but not now, for thee seems to be 
out of thy right senses" 

Some of Mr. Whitefield's enemies affected to sup- 
pose that he would apply these collections to his 
own private emolument; but I, who was intimately 
acquainted with him (being employed in printing 
his Sermons and Journals, etc.), never had the least 
suspicion of his integrity, but am to this day de- 
cidedly of opinion that he was in all his conduct a 
perfectly honest man; and methinks my testimony 
in his favour ought to have the more weight, as we 
had no. religious connection. He us'd, indeed, some- 
times to pray for my conversion, but never had the 
satisfaction of believing that his prayers were heard. 
Ours w T as a mere civil friendship, sincere on both 
sides, and lasted to his death. 

The following instance will show something of the 



174 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

terms on which we stood. Upon one of his arrivals 
from England at Boston, he wrote to me that he 
should come soon to Philadelphia, but knew not 
where he could lodge when there, as he understood 
his old friend and host, Mr. Benezet, was removed 
to Germantown. My answer was, "You know 
my house; if you can make shift with its scanty ac- 
commodations, you will be most heartily welcome. " 
He reply'd, that if I made that kind offer for Christ's 
sake, I should not miss of a reward. And I returned, 
"Don't let me be mistake?}; it was not for Christ's 
sake, but for your sake." One of our common ac- 
quaintance jocosely remark'd, that, knowing it to 
be the custom of the saints, when they received any 
favour, to shift the burden of the obligation from 
off their own shoulders, and place it in heaven, I had 
contriv'd to fix it on earth. 

The last time I saw Mr. Whitefield was in Lon- 
don, when he consulted me about his Orphan House 
concern, and his purpose of appropriating it to the 
establishment of a college. 

He had a loud and clear voice, and articulated his 
words and sentences so perfectly, that he might be 
heard and understood at a great distance, especially 
as his auditories, however numerous, observ'd the 
most exact silence. He preach' d one evening from 
the top of the Court-house steps, which are in the 
middle of Market-street, and on the west side of 
Second-street, which crosses it at right angles. Both 
streets were fill'd with his hearers to a considerable 
distance. Being among the hindmost in Market- 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 175 

street, I had the curiosity to learn how far he could 
be heard, by retiring backwards down the street to- 
wards the river; and I found his voice distinct till I 
came near Front-street, when some noise in that 
street obscur'd it. Imagining then a semicircle, of 
which my distance should be the radius, and that it 
were fill'd with auditors, to each of whom I allow' d 
two square feet, I computed that he might well be 
heard by more than thirty thousand. This recon- 
cil'd me to the newspaper accounts of his having 
preach' d to twenty-five thousand people in the fields, 
and to the antient histories of generals haranguing 
whole armies, of which I had sometimes doubted. 1 

By hearing him often, I came to distinguish easily 
between sermons newly compos' d, and those which 
he had often preach' d in the course of his travels. 
His delivery of the latter was so improv'd by fre- 
quent repetitions that every accent, every emphasis, 
every modulation of voice, was so perfectly well 
turn'd and well plac'd, that, without being interested 
in the subject, one could not help being pleased with 
the discourse; a pleasure of much the same kind 
with that receiv'd from an excellent piece of musick. 
This is an advantage itinerant preachers have over 
those who are stationary, as the latter can not well 
improve their delivery of a sermon by so many 
rehearsals. 

His writing and printing from time to time gave 

1 Franklin's use of a sermon from Mr. Whitefleld for no more spiritual 
purpose than to illustrate the carrying power of the human voice is 
another characteristic instance of his essentially utilitarian spirit. 



176 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

great advantage to his enemies; unguarded expres- 
sions, and even erroneous opinions, delivered in 
preaching, might have been afterwards explain' d or 
qualified by supposing others that might have ac 
compani'd them, or they might have been deny' d; 
but litera scripta manet. 1 Critics attacked his writ* 
ings violently, and with so much appearance of reason 
as to diminish the number of his votaries and prevent 
their encrease; so that I am of opinion if he had never 
written any thing, he would have left behind him a 
much more numerous and important sect, and his 
reputation might in that case have been still growing, 
even after his death, as there being nothing of his 
writing on which to found a censure and give him 
a lower character, his proselytes would be left at 
liberty to feign for him as great a variety of excel- 
lences as their enthusiastic admiration might wish 
him to have possessed. 

My business was now continually augmenting, 
and my circumstances growing daily easier, my 
newspaper having become very profitable, as being 
for a time almost the only one in this and the neigh- 
bouring provinces. I experienced, too, the truth of 
the observation, "that after getting the first hundred 
pound, it is more easy to get the second,'" money itself 
being of a prolific nature. 

The partnership at Carolina having succeeded, I 
was encourag'd to engage in others, and to promote 
several of my workmen, who had behaved well, by 
establishing them with printing-houses in different 

1 The written word remains. 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 177 

colonies, on the same terms with that in Carolina. 
Most of them did well, being enabled at the end of 
our term, six years, to purchase the types of me and 
go on working for themselves, by which means 
several families were raised. Partnerships often finish 
in quarrels; but I was happy in this, that mine were 
all carried on and ended amicably, owing, I think, 
a good deal to the precaution of having very explicitly 
settled, in our articles, every thing to be done by or 
expected from each partner, so that there was nothing 
to dispute, which precaution I would therefore recom- 
mend to all who enter into partnerships; for what- 
ever esteem partners may have for, and confidence 
in each other at the time of the contract, little jeal- 
ousies and disgusts may arise, with ideas of inequality 
in the care and burden of the business, etc., which 
are attended often with breach of friendship and of 
the connection, perhaps with lawsuits and other 
disagreeable consequences. 

I had, on the whole, abundant reason to be satis- 
fied with my being established in Pennsylvania. 
There were, however, two things that I regretted, 
there being no provision for defense, nor for a corn- 
pleat education of youth; no militia, nor any college. 
I therefore, in 1743, drew up a proposal for estab- 
lishing an academy; and at that time, thinking the 
Reverend Mr. Peters, who was out of employ, a 
fit person to superintend such an institution, I com- 
municated the project to him; but he, having more 
profitable views in the service of the proprietaries, 
which succeeded, declin'd the undertaking; and, 



178 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

not knowing another at that time suitable for such 
a trust, I let the scheme lie a while dormant. I 
succeeded better the next year, 1744, in proposing 
and establishing a Philosophical Society. 1 The paper 
I wrote for that purpose will be found among my 
writings, when collected. 

With respect to defense, Spain having been sev- 
eral years at war against Great Britain, and being 
at length join'd by France, which brought us into 
great danger; and the laboured and long-continued 
endeavour of our governor, Thomas, to prevail with 
our Quaker Assembly to pass a militia law, and 
make other provisions for the security of the prov- 
ince, having proved abortive, I determined to try 
what might be done by a voluntary association of 
the people. To promote this, I first wrote and pub- 
lished a pamphlet, entitled Plain Truth, in which 
I stated our defenceless situation in strong lights, 
with the necessity of union and discipline for our 
defense, and promis'd to propose in a few days an 
association, to be generally signed for that purpose. 
The pamphlet had a sudden and surprising effect. 
I was caird upon for the instrument of association, 
and having settled the draft of it with a few friends, I 
appointed a meeting of the citizens in the large build- 
ing before mentioned. The house was pretty full; I 
had prepared a number of printed copies, and pro- 

1 This society, which was devoted to the study of natural not of 
moral, philosoph3 T , survives as the American Philosophical Society 
of to-day. Franklin's society was in a sense an outgrowth of the 
Junto, six of the nine original members of the former body belong- 
ing to the latter as well. 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 179 

vided pens and ink dispers'd all over the room. I 
harangued them a little on the subject, read the 
paper, and explained it, and then distributed the 
copies, which were eagerly signed, not the least ob- 
jection being made. 

When the company separated, and the papers 
were collected, we found above twelve hundred 
hands; and, other copies being dispersed in the coun- 
try, the subscribers amounted at length to upward 
of ten thousand. These all furnished themselves 
as soon as they could with arms, formed themselves 
into companies and regiments, chose their own officers, 
and met every week to be instructed in the manual 
exercise, and other parts of military discipline. The 
women, by subscriptions among themselves, pro- 
vided silk colors, which they presented to the com- 
panies, painted with different devices and mottos, 
which I supplied. 

The officers of the companies composing the 
Philadelphia regiment, being met, chose me for 
their colonel; but, conceiving myself unfit, I de- 
clin'd that station, and recommended Mr. Lawrence, 
a fine person, and man of influence, who was ac- 
cordingly appointed. I then 'propos'd a lottery to 
defray the expense of building a battery below the 
town, and furnishing it with cannon. 1 It filled ex- 
peditiously, and the battery was soon erected, the 
merlons being fram'd of logs and fill'd with earth. 

1 In Franklin's day lotteries were constantly resorted to as a means 
of raising money. As in the case of the Mexican and South American 
government lotteries of to-day, the managers of these lotteries always 
operated them at a profit to themselves. 



180 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

We bought some old cannon from Boston, but, these 
not being sufficient, we wrote to England for more, 
soliciting, at the same time, our proprietaries for 
some assistance, tho' without much expectation of 
obtaining it. 

Meanwhile, Colonel Lawrence, William Allen, 
Abram Taylor, Esqr., and myself were sent to Xew 
York by the associators, commission' d to borrow 
some cannon of Governor Clinton. He at first re- 
fus'd us peremptorily; but at dinner with his coun- 
cil, where there was great drinking of Madeira wine, 
as the custom of that place then was, he softened by 
degrees, and said he would lend us six. After a 
few more bumpers he advanc'd to ten; and at length 
he very good-naturedly conceded eighteen. They 
were fine cannon, eighteen-pounders, with their 
carriages, which we soon transported and mounted 
on our battery, where the associators kept a nightly 
guard while the war lasted, and among the rest I 
regularly took my turn of duty there as a common 
soldier. 

My activity in these operations was agreeable to 
the governor and council; they took me into con- 
fidence, and I was consulted by them in every meas- 
ure wherein their concurrence was thought useful 
to the association. Calling in the aid of religion, I 
propos'd to them the proclaiming a fast, to promote 
reformation, and implore the blessing of Heaven on 
our undertaking. They embrae'd the motion; but, 
as it was the first fast ever thought of in the province, 
the secretary had no precedent from which to draw 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 181 

the proclamation. My education in New England, 
where a fast is proclaimed every year, was here of 
some advantage: I drew it in the accustomed stile, 
31 was translated into German, printed in both lan- 
guages, and divulg'd thro' the province. This gave 
the clergy of the different sects an opportunity of 
influencing their congregations to join in the asso- 
ciation, and it would probably have been general 
among all but Quakers if the peace had not soon 
intervened. 

It was thought by some of my friends that, by 
my activity in these affairs, I should offend that sect, 
and thereby lose my interest in the ' Assembly of 
the province, where they formed a great majority. 
A young gentleman who had likewise some friends 
in the House, and wished to succeed me as their 
clerk, acquainted me that it was decided to displace 
me at the next election; and he, therefore, in good 
will, advis'd me to resign, as more consistent with 
my honour than being turn'd out. My answer to 
him was, that I had read or heard of some public 
man who made it a rule never to ask for an office, 
and never to refuse one when offer' d to him. "I 
approve," says I, "of his rule, and will practice it 
with a small addition; I shall never ask, never refuse, 
nor ever resign an office. If they will have my office 
of clerk to dispose of to another, they shall take it 
from me. I will not, by giving it up, lose my right 
of some time or other making reprisals on my ad- 
versaries." I heard, however, no more of this; I 
was chosen again unanimously as usual at the next 



182 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

election. Possibly, as they dislik'd my late intimacy 
with the members of council, who had join'd the 
governors in all the disputes about military prepara- 
tions, with which the House had long been harass'd, 
they might have been pleas' d if I would voluntarily 
have left them; but they did not care to displace me 
on account merely of my zeal for the association, 
and they could not well give another reason. 

Indeed I had some cause to believe that the de- 
fense of the country was not disagreeable to any of 
them, provided they were not requir'd to assist in 
it. And I found that a much greater number of 
them than I could have imagined, tho' against offen- 
sive war, were clearly for the defensive. Many pam- 
phlets pro and con were published on the subject, 
and some by good Quakers, in favour of defense, 
which I believe convinc'd most of their younger people. 

A transaction in our fire company gave me some 
insight into their prevailing sentiments. It had been 
propos'd that we should encourage the scheme for 
building a battery by laying out the present stock, 
then about sixty pounds, in tickets of the lottery. 
By our rules, no money could be dispos'd of till the 
next meeting after the proposal. The company 
consisted of thirty members, of which twenty-two 
were Quakers, and eight only of other persuasions. 
We eight punctually attended the meeting; but, 
tho' we thought that some of the Quakers would 
join us, we were by no means sure of a majority. 
Only one Quaker, Mr. James Morris, appear' d to 
oppose the measure. He expressed much sorrow 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 183 

that it had ever been propos'd, as he said Friends 
were all against it, and it would create such discord 
as might break up the company. We told him that 
we saw no reason for that; we were the minority, and 
if Friends were against the measure, and out-voted 
us, we must and should, agreeably to the usage of 
all societies, submit. When the hour for business 
arriv'd it was mov'd to put the vote; he allow'd we 
might then do it by the rules, but, as he could assure 
us that a number of members intended to be present 
for the purpose of opposing it, it would be but can- 
did to allow a little time for their appearing. 

While we were disputing this, a waiter came to 
tell me two gentlemen below desir'd to speak with 
me. I went down, and found they were two of our 
Quaker members. They told me there were eight 
of them assembled at a tavern just by; that they 
were determin'd to come and vote with us if there 
should be occasion, which they hop'd would not 
be the case, and desir'd we would not call for their 
assistance if we could do without it, as their voting 
for such a measure might embroil them with their 
elders and friends. Being thus secure of a ma- 
jority, I went up, and after a little seeming hesita- 
tion, agreed to a delay of another hour. This Mr. 
Morris allow'd to be extreamly fair. Not one of his 
opposing friends appear' d, at which he express' d 
great surprise; and, at the expiration of the hour, 
we carry' d the resolution eight to one; and as, of 
the twenty-two Quakers, eight were ready to vote 
with us, and thirteen, by their absence, manifested 



184 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

that they were not inclin'd to oppose the measure, 
I afterward estimated the proportion of Quakers 
sincerely against defense as one to twenty-one only; 
for these were all regular members of that society, 
and in good reputation among them, and had due 
notice of what was propos'd at that meeting. 

The honorable and learned Mr. Logan, who had 
always been of that sect, was one who wrote an ad- 
dress to them, declaring his approbation of defen- 
sive war, and supporting his opinion by many strong 
arguments. He put into my hands sixty pounds to 
be laid out in lottery tickets for the battery, with 
directions to apply what prizes might be drawn wholly 
to that service. He told me the following anecdote 
of his old master, William Penn, respecting defense. 
He came over from England, when a young man, 
with that proprietary, and as his secretary. It was 
war-time, and their ship was chas'd by an armed 
vessel, suppos'd to be an enemy. Their captain 
prepar'd for defense; but told William Penn, and 
his company of Quakers, that he did not expect 
their assistance, and they might retire into the cabin, 
which they did, except James Logan, who chose to 
stay upon deck, and was quarter' d to a gun. The 
suppos'd enemy prov'd a friend, so there was no 
fighting- but when the secretary went down to com- 
municate the intelligence, William Penn rebuk'd 
him severely for staying upon deck, and undertak- 
ing to assist in defending the vessel, contrary to the 
principles of Friends, especially as it had not been 
required by the captain. This reproof, being before 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 185 

all the company, piqu'd the secretary, who answer' d, 
"I being thy servant, why did thee not order me to 
come dozen/' But thee was willing enough that I 
should stay and help to fight the ship when thee thought 
there was danger" 

My being many years in the Assembly, the ma- 
jority of which were constantly Quakers, gave me 
frequent opportunities of seeing the embarrassment 
given them by their principle against war, when- 
ever application was made to them, by order of the 
crown, to grant aids for military purposes. They 
were unwilling to offend government, on the one 
hand, by a direct refusal; and their friends, the body 
of the Quakers, on the other, by a compliance con- 
trary to their principles; hence a variety of evasions 
to avoid complying, and modes of disguising the 
compliance when it became unavoidable. The com- 
mon mode at last was, to grant money under the 
phrase of its being "for the king's use" and never 
to inquire how it was applied. 

But, if the demand was not directly from the crown, 
that phrase was found not so proper, and some other 
was to be invented. As, when powder was wanting 
(I think it was for the garrison at Louisburg), and 
the government of Xew England solicited a grant 
of some from Pennsilvania, which was much urg'd 
on the House by Governor Thomas, they could not 
grant money to buy powder, because that was an 
ingredient of war; but they voted an aid to Xew 
England of three thousand pounds, to be put into 
the hands of the governor, and appropriated it for 



186 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

the purchasing of bread, flour, wheat, or other grain. 
Some of the council, desirous of giving the House 
still further embarrassment, advis'd the governor 
not to accept provision, as not being the thing he 
had demanded; but he reply' d, "I shall take the 
money, for I understand very well their meaning, 
other grain is gunpowder," which he accordingly 
bought, and they never objected to it. 

It was in allusion to this fact that, when in our 
fire company we feared the success of our proposal 
in favour of the lottery, and I had said to my friend 
Mr. Syng, one of our members, "If we fail, let us 
move the purchase of a fire-engine with the money; 
the Quakers can have no objection to that; and then, 
if you nominate me and I you as a committee for 
that purpose, we will buy a great gun, which is cer- 
tainly a fire-engine." "I see," says he, "you have 
improv'd by being so long in the Assembly; your 
equivocal project would be just a match for their 
wheat or other grain!' 

These embarrassments that the Quakers suffered 
from having establish' d and published it as one of 
their principles that no kind of war was lawful, and 
which, being once published, they could not after- 
wards, however they might change their minds, 
easily get rid of, reminds me of what I think a more 
prudent conduct in another sect among us, that of 
the Dunkers. 1 I was acquainted with one of its 

1 The Tunkers or Dunkers were a German Pietistic sect who, 
being persecuted at home, came to this country at the invitation 
of William Penn and settled near the Moravians, in the western vicin- 
ity of Philadelphia. 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 187 

founders, Michael Welfare, soon after it appear' d. 
He complained to me that they were grievously 
calumniated by the zealots of other persuasions, and 
charg'd with abominable principles and practices, to 
which they were utter strangers. I told him this 
had always been the case with new sects, and that, 
to put a stop to such abuse, I imagin'd it might be 
well to publish the articles of their belief, and the 
rules of their discipline. He said that it had been 
propos'd among them, but not agreed to, for this 
reason: "When we were first drawn together as a 
society," says he, "it had pleased God to enlighten 
our minds so far as to see that some doctrines, which 
we once esteemed truths, were errors; and that others, 
which we had esteemed errors, were real truths. 
From time to time He has been pleased to afford 
us farther light, and our principles have been im- 
proving, and our errors diminishing. Now we are not 
sure that we are arrived at the end of this progres- 
sion, and at the perfection of spiritual or theological 
knowledge; and we fear that, if we should once print 
our confession of faith, we should feel ourselves 
as if bound and confin'd by it, and perhaps be un- 
willing to receive farther improvement, and our 
successors still more so, as conceiving what we their 
elders and founders had done, to be something sacred, 
never to be departed from." 

This modesty in a sect is perhaps a singular in- 
stance in the history of mankind, every other sect 
supposing itself in possession of all truth, and that 
those who differ are so far in the wrong; like a man 



188 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

traveling in foggy weather, those at some distance 
before him on the road he sees wrapped up in the 
fog. as well as those behind him, and also the people 
in the fields on each side, but near him all appears 
clear, tho' in truth he is as much in the fog as any 
of them. To avoid this kind of embarrassment, 
the Quakers have of late years been gradually de- 
clining the public service in the Assembly and in 
the magistracy, choosing rather to quit their power 
than their principle. 

In order of time, I should have mentioned before, 
that having, in 1742, invented an open stove 1 for the 
better warming of rooms, and at the same time sav- 
ing fuel, as the fresh air admitted was warmed in 
entering, I made a present of the model to Mr. Robert 
Grace, one of my early friends, who, having an iron- 
furnace, found the casting of the plates for these 
stoves a profitable thing, as they were growing in 
demand. To promote that demand, I wrote and 
published a pamphlet, entitled "An Account of the 
new-invented Pennsylvania Fireplaces; wherein their 
Construction and Manner of Operation is particularly 
explained; their Advantages above every other Method 
of warming Rooms demonstrated; and all Objections 
that have been raised against the Use of them answered 

1 The Franklin open stove, or fire-place, was the earliest and in 
many respects the most popular of Franklin's numerous scientific in- 
ventions. This fire-place, which, as the author tells us, was designed 
to economize fuel, illustrates the essentially practical purposes which 
the majority of Franklin's inventions were intended to serve. Un- 
like Kepler, Galileo, and Newton, Franklin was much less inter- 
ested in science for its own sake than in the practical uses to which it 
could be put. 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 189 

and obviated," etc. This pamphlet had a good effect. 
Gov'r. Thomas was so pleas 7 d with the construction 
of this stove, as described in it, that he offered to 
give me a patent for the sole vending of them for a 
term of years; but I deelin'd it from a principle which 
has ever weighed with me on such occasions, viz., 
That, as we enjoy great advantages from the inven- 
tions of others, ice should be glad of an opportunity 
to serve others by any invention of ours; and this ice 
should do freely and generously. 

An ironmonger in London however, assuming a 
good deal of my pamphlet, and working it up into 
his own, and making some small changes in the 
machine, which rather hurt its operation, got a patent 
for it there, and made, as I was told, a little fortune 
by it. And this is not the only instance of patents 
taken out for my inventions by others, tho' not al- 
ways with the same success, which I never contested, 
as having no desire of profiting by patents myself, 
and hating disputes. The use of these fireplaces 
in very many houses, both of this and the neighbor- 
ing colonies, has been, and is, a great saving of wood 
to the inhabitants. 

Peace ' being concluded, and the association busi- 
ness therefore at an end, I turn'd my thoughts again 
to the affair of establishing an academy. The first 
step I took was to associate in the design a number 
of active friends, of whom the Junto furnished a good 
part; the next was to write and publish a pamphlet, 
entitled Proposals relating to the Education of Youth 
in Pennsylvania. This I distributed among the 



190 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

principal inhabitants gratis; and as soon as I could 
suppose their minds a little prepared by the perusal 
of it, I set on foot a subscription for opening and 
supporting an academy: it was to be paid in quotas 
yearly for five years; by so dividing it, I judg'd the 
subscription might be larger, and I believe it was 
so, amounting to no less, if I remember right, than 
five thousand pounds. 

In the introduction to these proposals, I stated 
their publication, not as an act of mine, but of some 
publick -spirited gentlemen, avoiding as much as I 
could, according to my usual rule, the presenting 
myself to the publick as the author of any scheme 
for their benefit. 

The subscribers, to carry the project into imme- 
diate execution, chose out of their number twenty- 
four trustees, and appointed Mr. Francis, then at- 
torney-general, and myself to draw up constitutions 
for the government of the academy; which being 
done and signed, a house was hired, masters engag'd, 
and the schools opened, I think, in the same year, 
1749. 

The scholars increasing fast, the house was soon 
found too small, and we were looking out for a piece 
of ground, properly situated, with intention to build, 
when Providence threw into our way a large house 
ready built, which, with a few alterations, might 
w r ell serve our purpose. This was the building be- 
fore mentioned, erected by the hearers of Mr. White- 
field, and was obtained for us in the following manner. 

It is to be noted that the contributions to this build- 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 191 

ing being made by people of different sects, care was 
taken in the nomination of trustees, in whom the 
building and ground was to be vested, that a pre- 
dominancy should not be given to any sect, lest in 
time that predominancy might be a means of appro- 
priating the whole to the use of such sect, contrary 
to the original intention. It was therefore that one 
of each sect was appointed, viz., one Church-of- 
England man, one Presbyterian, one Baptist, one 
Moravian, etc., those, in case of vacancy by death, 
were to fill it by election from among the contributors. 
The Moravian happened not to please his colleagues, 
and on his death they resolved to have no other of 
that sect. The difficulty then was, how to avoid 
having two of some other sect, by means of the new 
choice. 

Several persons were named, and for that reason 
not agreed to. At length one mention' d me, with 
the observation that I was merely an honest man, 
and of no sect at all, which prevail' d with them to 
chuse me. The enthusiasm which existed when 
the house was built had long since abated, and its 
trustees had not been able to procure fresh contri- 
butions for paying the ground-rent, and discharging 
some other debts the building had occasion' d, which 
embarrass' d them greatly. Being now a member 
of both setts of trustees, that for the building and 
that for the academy, I had a good opportunity of 
negotiating with both, and brought them finally to 
an agreement, by which the trustees for the building 
were to cede it to those of the academy, the latter 



192 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

undertaking to discharge the debt, to keep for ever 
open in the building a large hall for occasional 
preachers, according to the original intention, and 
maintain a free-school for the instruction of poor 
children. Writings were accordingly drawn, and 
on paving the debts the trustees of the academy 
were put in possession of the premises; and by divid- 
ing the great and lofty hall into stories, and different 
rooms above and below for the several schools, and 
purchasing some additional ground, the whole was 
soon made fit for our purpose, and the scholars re- 
moval into the building. The care and trouble of 
agreeing with the workmen, purchasing materials, 
and superintending the work, fell upon me; and I 
went thro' it the more cheerfully, as it did not then 
interfere with my private business, having the year 
before taken a very able, industrious, and honest 
partner, Mr. David Hall, with whose character I 
was well acquainted, as he had work'd for me four 
years. He took off my hands all care of the print- 
ing-office, paying me punctually my share of the 
profits. This partnership continued eighteen years, 
successfully for us both. 

The trustees of the academy, after a w^iile, were 
incorporated by a charter from the governor; Ikeir 
funds were increas'd by contributions in Britain and 
grants of land from the proprietaries, to which the 
Assembly has since made considerable addition; 
and thus was established the present University of 
Philadelphia. I have been continued one of its 
trustees from the beginning, now near forty years, 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 193 

and have had the very great pleasure of seeing a 
number of the youth who have receiv'd their educa- 
tion in it, distinguish' d by their improv'd abilities, 
serviceable in public stations, and ornaments to their 
country. 

When I disengaged myself, as above mentioned, 
from private business, I flatter' d myself that, by the 
sufficient tho' moderate fortune I had acqmYd, I had 
secured leisure during the rest of my life for philo- 
sophical studies and amusements. 1 I purchased all 
Dr. Spence's apparatus, who had come from Eng- 
land to lecture here, and I proceeded in my elec- 
trical experiments with great alacrity; but the pub- 
lick, now considering me as a man of leisure, laid 
hold of me for their purposes, every part of our civil 
government, and almost at the same time, imposing 
some duty upon me. The governor put me into 
the commission of the peace; the corporation of the 
city chose me of the common council, and soon after 
an alderman; and the citizens at large chose me a 
burgess to represent them in Assembly. This latter 
station was the more agreeable to me, as I was at 
length tired with sitting there to hear debates, in 
which, as clerk, I could take no part, and which 
were often so unentertaining that I was indue' d to 
amuse myself with making magic squares or circles, 
or any thing to avoid weariness; and I conceiv'd my 
becoming a member would enlarge my power of 
doing good. I would not, however, insinuate that 
my ambition was not flatter' d by all these promo- 

1 That is, studies in natural philosophy or science. 



194 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

tions; it certainly was; for, considering my low be- 
ginning, they were great things to me; and they were 
still more pleasing, as being so many spontaneous 
testimonies of the public good opinion, and by me 
entirely unsolicited. 

The office of justice of the peace I try'd a little, 
by attending a few courts, and sitting on the bench 
to hear causes, but finding that more knowledge of 
the common law than I possess'd was necessary to 
act in that station with credit, I gradually withdrew 
from it, excusing myself by my being oblig'd to attend 
the higher duties of a legislator in the Assembly. 
My election to this trust was repeated every year 
for ten years, without my ever asking any elector 
for his vote, or signifying, either directly or indirectly, 
any desire of being chosen. On taking my seat in 
the House, my son was appointed their clerk. 

The year following, a treaty being to be held with 
the Indians at Carlisle, the governor sent a messenger 
to the House, proposing that they should nominate 
some of their members, to be join'd with some mem- 
bers of council, as commissioners for that purpose. 
The House named the speaker (Mr. Norris) and 
myself; and, being commission'd, we went to Car- 
lisle, and met the Indians accordingly. 

As those people are extreamly apt to get drunk, 
and, when so, are very quarrelsome and disorderly, 
we strictly forbad the selling any liquor to them; 
and when they complain d of this restriction, we 
told them that if they would continue sober during 
the treaty, we would give them plenty of rum when 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 195 

•business was over. They promis'd this, and they 
kept their promise, because they could get no liquor, 
and the treaty was conducted very orderly, and con- 
cluded to mutual satisfaction. They then claim' d 
and receiv'd the rum; this was in the afternoon; 
they were near one hundred men, women, and chil- 
dren, and were lodg'd in temporary cabins, built in 
the form of a square, just without the town. In the 
evening, hearing a great noise among them, the com- 
missioners walk'd out to see what was the matter. 
We found they had made a great bonfire in the middle 
of the square; they were all drunk, men and women, 
quarreling and fighting. Their dark-colour' d bodies, 
half naked, seen only by the gloomy light of the bon- 
fire, running after and beating one another with fire- 
brands, accompanied by their horrid yellings, form'd 
a scene the most resembling our ideas of hell that 
could well be imagin'd; there was no appeasing the 
tumult, and we retired to our lodging. At midnight 
a number of them came thundering at our door, 
demanding more rum, of which we took no notice. 
The next day, sensible they had misbehav'd in 
giving us that disturbance, they sent three of their 
old counselors to make their apology. The orator 
acknowledg'd the fault, but laid it upon the rum; 
and then endeavored to excuse the rum by saying, 
"The Great Spirit, who made all things, made every 
thing for some use, and whatever use he design d any 
thing for, that use it should always be put to. Now, 
when he made rum, he said, 'Let this be for the Indians 
to get drunk with? and it must be so." And, indeed, 



196 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

if it be the design of Providence to extirpate these 
savages in order to make room for cultivators of the 
earth, it seems not improbable that rum may be the 
appointed means. It has already annihilated all 
the tribes who formerly inhabited the sea-coast. 

In 1751, Dr. Thomas Bond, a particular friend 
of mine, conceived the idea of establishing a hos- 
pital in Philadelphia (a very beneficent design, which 
has been ascrib'd to me, but was originally his), 
for the reception and cure of poor sick persons, whether 
inhabitants of the province or strangers. He was 
zealous and active in endeavoring to procure sub- 
scriptions for it, but the proposal being a novelty 
in America, and at first not well understood, he met 
but with small success. 

At length he came to me with the compliment 
that he found there was no such thing as carrying 
a public-spirited project through without my being 
concern' d in it. "For/' says he, "I am often ask'd 
by those to whom I propose subscribing, Have you 
consulted Franklin upon this business? And what 
does he think of it? And when I tell them that I 
have not (supposing it rather out of your line), they 
do not subscribe, but say they will consider of it." 
I enquired into the nature and probable utility of his 
scheme, and receiving from him a very satisfactory 
explanation, I not only subscribed to it myself, but 
engag'd heartily in the design of procuring subscrip- 
tions from others. Previously, however, to the solic- 
itation, I endeavoured to prepare the minds of the 
people by writing on the subject in the newspapers, 



OF BEXJAMIX FRANKLIN 197 

which was my usual custom in such cases, but which 
he had omitted. 

The subscriptions afterwards were more free and 
generous; but, beginning to flag, I saw they would 
be insufficient without some assistance from the 
Assembly, and therefore propos'd to petition for it, 
which was done. The country members did not at 
first relish the project; they objected that it could 
only be serviceable to the city, and therefore the 
citizens alone should be at the expense of it; and 
they doubted whether the citizens themselves gen- 
erally approved of it. My allegation on the con- 
trary, that it met with such approbation as to leave 
no doubt of our being able to raise two thousand 
pounds by voluntary donations, they considered as 
a most extravagant supposition, and utterly impossible. 

On this I form'd my plan; and, asking leave to 
bring in a bill for incorporating the contributors ac- 
cording to the prayer of their petition, and granting 
them a blank sum of money, which leave was ob- 
tained chiefly on the consideration that the House 
could throw the bill out if they did not like it, I drew 
it so as to make the important clause a conditional 
one, viz., "And be it enacted, by the authority afore- 
said, that when the said contributors shall have met 
and chosen their managers and treasurer, and shall 
have raised by their contributions a capital stock of 

value (the yearly interest of which is to be applied 

to the accommodating of the sick poor in the said 
hospital, free of chaige for diet, attendance, advice, 
and medicines), and shall make the same appear to 



198 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

the satisfaction of the speaker of the Assembly for the 
time being, that then it shall and may be lawful for 
the said speaker, and he is hereby required, to sign 
an order on the provincial treasurer for the payment 
of two thousand pounds, in two yearly payments, 
to the treasurer of the said hospital, to be applied 
to the founding, building, and finishing of the same." 

This condition carried the bill through; for the 
members, who had oppos'd the grant, and now con- 
ceiv'd they might have the credit of being chari- 
table without the expence, agreed to its passage; and 
then, in soliciting subscriptions among the people, 
we urg'd the conditional promise of the law as an 
additional motive to give, since every man's dona- 
tion would be doubled; thus the clause work'd both 
ways. The subscriptions accordingly soon exceeded 
the requisite sum, and we claim' d and receiv'd the 
public gift, which enabled us to carry the design 
into execution. A convenient and handsome build- 
ing was soon erected; the institution has by constant 
experience been found useful, and flourishes to this 
day; and I do not remember any of my political 
manoeuvres, the success of which gave me at the 
time more pleasure, or wherein, after thinking of it, 
I more easily excus'd myself for having made some 
use of cunning. 

It was about this time that another projector, 
the Rev. Gilbert Tennent, came to me with a re- 
quest that I would assist him in procuring a sub- 
scription for erecting a new meeting-house. It was 
to be for the use of a congregation he had gathered 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 199 

among the Presbyterians, who were originally dis- 
ciples of Mr. \Yhitefield. Unwilling to make my- 
self disagreeable to my fellow-citizens by too fre- 
quently soliciting their contributions, I absolutely 
refus'd. He then desired I would furnish him with 
a list of the names of persons I knew by experience 
to be generous and public-spirited. I thought it 
would be unbecoming in me, after their kind com- 
pliance with my solicitations, to mark them out to 
be worried by other beggars, and therefore refus'd 
also to give such a list. He then desir'd I w T ould 
at least give him my advice. "That I will readily 
do," said I; "and, in the first place, I advise you to 
apply to all those whom you know will give some- 
thing; next, to those whom you are uncertain whether 
they w T ill give any thing or not, and show them the 
list of those who have given; and, lastly, do not neglect 
those who you are sure will give nothing, for in some 
of them you may be mistaken." He laugh' d and 
thank' d me, and said he would take my advice. He 
did so, for he ask'd of everybody, and he obtain' d 
a much larger sum than he expected, with which 
he erected the capacious and very elegant meeting- 
house that stands in Arch-street. 

Our city, tho' laid out with a beautifull regularity, 
the streets large, strait, and crossing each other at 
right angles, had the disgrace of suffering those streets 
to remain long unpav'd, and in wet weather the 
wheels of heavy carriages plough' d them into a quag- 
mire, so that it was difficult to cross them; and in 
dry weather the dust was offensive. I had hVd. near 



200 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

what was eall'd the Jersey Market, and saw with 
pain the inhabitants wading in mud while purchasing 
their provisions. A strip of ground down the middle 
of that market was at length pav'd with brick, so 
that, being once in the market, they had firm footing, 
but were often over shoes in dirt to get there. By 
talking and writing on the subject, I was at length 
instrumental in getting the street pav'd with stone be- 
tween the market and the brick'd foot-pavement, that 
was on each side next the houses. This, for some 
time, gave an easy access to the market dry-shod; 
but, the rest of the street not being pav'd, when- 
ever a carriage came out of the mud upon this pave- 
ment, it shook off and left its dirt upon it, and it was 
soon cover' d with mire, which was not remov'd, the 
city as yet having no scavengers. 

After some inquiry, I found a poor, industrious 
man, who was willing to undertake keeping the 
pavement clean, by sweeping it twice a week, carry- 
ing off the dirt from before all the neighbours' doors, 
for the sum of sixpence per month, to be paid by 
each house. I then wrote and printed a paper set- 
ting forth the advantages to the neighbourhood that 
might be obtain'd by this small expense; the greater 
ease in keeping our houses clean, so much dirt not 
being brought in by people's feet; the benefit to the 
shops by more custom, etc., etc., as buyers could 
more easily get at them; and by not having, in windy 
weather, the dust blown in upon their goods, etc., 
etc. I sent one of these papers to each house, and in 
a dav or two went round to see who would sub- 



OF BENJAMIN* FRANKLIN 201 

scribe an agreement to pay these sixpences; it was 
unanimously sign'd, and for a time well executed. 
All the inhabitants of the city were delighted with the 
cleanliness of the pavement that surrounded the 
market, it being a convenience to all, and this rais'd 
a general desire to have all the streets paved, and 
made the people more willing to submit to a tax for 
that purpose. 

After some time I drew a bill for paving the city, 
and brought it into the Assembly. It was just be- 
fore I went to England, in 1757, and did not pass 
till I was gone, and then with an alteration in the 
mode of assessment, which I thought not for the 
better, but with an additional provision for lighting 
as well as paving the streets, which was a great im- 
provement. It was by a private person, the late 
Mr. John Clifton, his giving a sample of the utility 
of lamps, by placing one at his door, that the people 
were first impress' d with the idea of enlighting all 
the city. The honour of this public benefit has also 
been ascrib'd to me, but it belongs truly to that gentle- 
man. I did but follow his example, and have only 
some merit to claim respecting the form of our lamps, 
as differing from the globe lamps we were at first 
supply' d with from London. Those we found in- 
convenient in these respects: they admitted no air 
below; the smoke, therefore, did not readily go out 
above, but circulated in the globe, lodg'd on its inside, 
and soon obstructed the light they were intended 
to afford; giving, besides, the daily trouble of wiping 
them clean; and an accidental stroke on one of them 



202 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

would demolish it, and render it totally useless. I 
therefore suggested the composing them of four 
flat panes, with a long funnel above to draw up the 
smoke, and crevices admitting air below, to facili- 
tate the ascent of the smoke; by this means they 
were kept clean, and did not grow dark in a few 
hours, as the London lamps do, but continu'd bright 
till morning, and an accidental stroke would generally 
break but a single pane, easily repair' d. 

I have sometimes wonder' d that the Londoners 
did not, from the effect holes in the bottom of the 
globe lamps us'd at Vauxhall 1 have in keeping them 
clean, learn to have such holes in their street lamps. 
But, these holes being made for another purpose, 
viz., to communicate flame more suddenly to the 
wick by a little flax hanging down thro' them, the 
other use, of letting in air, seems not to have been 
thought of; and therefore, after the lamps have been 
lit a few hours, the streets of London are very poorly 
illuminated. 

The mention of these improvements puts me in 
mind of one I propos'd, when in London, to Dr. 
Fothergill, who was among the best men I have 
known, and a great promoter of useful projects. I 
had observ'd that the streets, when dry, were never 



1 Vauxhall Gardens was, like Ranelagh Gardens, a fashionable 
eighteenth century resort; it is often referred to by Addison and other 
contemporary authors. For a good description of these gardens see 
Austin Dobson, "BeauTibbs at Vauxhall." Eigfdeenth Century Essays , 
pp. 233 ff. ; "Old Vauxhall Gardens,"' Eighteenth Century Vignettes, 
first series, pp. 230 ff., and " Ranelagh,'' Eighteenth Century Vignettes. 
second series, pp. 269 ff. 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 203 

swept, and the light dust carried away; but it was 
suffered to accumulate till wet weather reduc'd it to 
mud, and then, after lying some days so deep on 
the pavement that there was no crossing but in paths 
kept clean by poor people with brooms, it was with 
great labour rak'd together and thrown up into carts 
open above, the sides of which suffer' d some of the 
slush at every jolt on the pavement to shake out 
and fall, sometimes to the annoyance of foot-pas- 
sengers. The reason given for not sweeping the 
dusty streets was, that the dust would fly into the 
windows of shops and houses. 

An accidental occurrence had instructed me how 
much sweeping might be done in a little time. I 
found at my door in Craven-street, one morning, a 
poor woman sweeping my pavement with a birch 
broom; she appeared very pale and feeble, as just 
come out of a fit of sickness. I ask'd who employ' d 
her to sweep there; she said, "Nobody; but I am 
very poor and in distress, and I sweeps before gen- 
tlefolkses doors, and hopes they will give me some- 
thing." I bid her sweep the whole street clean, and 
I would give her a shilling; this was at nine o'clock; 
at 12 she came for the shilling. From the slow- 
ness I saw at first in her working, I could scarce 
believe that the work was done so soon, and sent 
my servant to examine it, who reported that the 
whole street was swept perfectly clean, and all the 
dust plac'd in the gutter, which was in the middle; 
and the next rain wash'd it quite aw T ay, so that the 
pavement and even the kennel were perfectly clean. 



204 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

I then judg'd that, if that feeble woman could 
sweep such a street in three hours, a strong, active 
man might have done it in half the time. And here 
let me remark the convenience of having but one 
gutter in such a narrow street, running down its 
middle, instead of two, one on each side, near the 
footway; for where all the rain that falls on a street 
runs from the sides and meets in the middle, it forms 
there a current strong enough to wash away all the 
mud it meets with; but when divided into two chan- 
nels, it is often too weak to cleanse either, and only 
makes the mud it finds more fluid, so that the wheels 
of carriages and feet of horses throw and dash it upon 
the foot-pavement, which is thereby rendered foul 
and slippery, and sometimes splash it upon those 
who are walking. My proposal, communicated to 
the good doctor, was as follows: 

"For the more effectual cleaning and keeping 
clean the streets of London and Westminster, it is 
proposed that the several watchmen be contracted with 
to have the dust swept up in dry seasons, and the 
mud rak'd up at other times, each in the several streets 
and lanes of his round; that they be furnish d with 
brooms and other proper instruments for these purposes, 
to be kept at their respective stands, ready to furnish 
the poor people they may employ in the service. 

"That in the dry summer months the dust be all 
swept up into heaps at proper distances, before the 
shops and windows of houses are usually opened, 
when the scavengers, with close-covered carts, shall 
also carry it all away. 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 205 

"That the mud, when rak'd up, be not left in 
heaps to be spread abroad again by the wheels of 
carriages and trampling of horses, but that the scav- 
engers be provided with bodies of carts, not plac'd 
high upon wheels, but low upon sliders, with lattice 
bottoms, which, being cover' d with straw, will re- 
tain the mud thrown into them, and permit the water 
to drain from it, whereby it will become much lighter, 
water making the greatest part of its weight; these 
bodies of carts to be plac'd at convenient distances, 
and the mud brought to them in wheel-barrows; 
they remaining where plac'd till the mud is drain' d, 
and then horses brought to draw them away." 

I have since had doubts of the practicability of 
t-he latter part of this proposal, on account of the 
narrowness of some streets, and the difficulty of 
placing the draining-sleds so as not to encumber too 
much the passage; but I am still of opinion that 
the former, requiring the dust to be swept up and 
carry' d away before the shops are open, is very practi- 
cable in the summer, when the days are long; for, 
in walking thro' the Strand and Fleet-street one 
morning at seven o'clock, I observ'd there was not 
one shop open, tho' it had been daylight and the 
sun up above three hours; the inhabitants of London 
chusing voluntarily to live much by candle-light, 
and sleep by sunshine, and yet often complain, a 
little absurdly, of the duty on candles, and the high 
price of tallow. 

Some may think these trifling matters not worth 
minding or relating; but when they consider that 



206 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

tho' dust blown into the eyes of a single person, or 
into a single shop on a windy day, is but of small 
importance, yet the great number of the instances 
in a populous city, and its frequent repetitions give it 
weight and consequence, perhaps they will not cen- 
sure very severely those who bestow some attention 
to affairs of this seemingly low nature. Human 
felicity is produced not so much by great pieces of 
good fortune that seldom happen, as by little advan- 
tages that occur every day. Thus, if you teach a 
poor young man to shave himself, and keep his razor 
in order, you may contribute more to the happiness 
of his life than in giving him a thousand guineas. 
The money may be soon spent, the regret only re- 
maining of having foolishly consumed it; but in the 
other case, he escapes the frequent vexation of wait- 
ing for barbers, and of their sometimes dirty fingers, 
offensive breaths, and dull razors; he shaves when 
most convenient to him, and enjoys daily the pleasure 
of its being done with a good instrument. With 
these sentiments I have hazarded the few preceding- 
pages, hoping they may afford hints which some time 
or other may be useful to a city I love, having lived 
many years in it very happily, and perhaps to some 
of our towns in America. 

Having been for some time employed by the post- 
master-general of America as his comptroller in 
regulating several offices, and bringing the officers 
to account, I was, upon his death in 1753, appointed, 
jointly with Mr. William Hunter, to succeed him, 
by a commission from the postmaster-general in 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 207 

England. The American office never had hitherto 
paid any thing to that of Britain. We were to have 
six hundred pounds a year between us, if we could 
make that sum out of the profits of the office. To 
do this, a variety of improvements were necessary; 
some of these were inevitably at first expensive, so 
that in the first four years the office became above 
nine hundred pounds in debt to us. But it soon 
after began to repay us; and before I was displac'd 
by a freak of the ministers, of which I shall speak 
hereafter, we had brought it to yield three times as 
much clear revenue to the crown as the postoffice 
of Ireland. Since that imprudent transaction, they 
have receiv'd from it — not one farthing! 

The business of the postoffice occasioned my tak- 
ing a journey this year to New England, where the 
College of Cambridge, of their own motion, pre- 
sented me with the degree of Master of Arts. Yale 
College, in Connecticut, had before made me a similar 
compliment. Thus, without studying in any college, 
I came to partake of their honours. They were con- 
ferr'd in consideration of my improvements and dis- 
coveries in the electric branch of natural philosophy. 

In 1754, war with France being again appre- 
hended, a congress of commissioners from the differ- 
ent colonies was, by an order of the Lords of Trade, 
to be assembled at Albany, there to confer with the 
chiefs of the Six Nations 1 concerning the means of 
defending both their country and ours. Governor 

1 An Indian confederation comprising the Mohawks, Senecas, Ca- 
yugas, Oneidas, Onondagas, and Tuscaroras. 



208 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

Hamilton, having receiv'd this order, acquainted the 
House with it, requesting they would furnish proper 
presents for the Indians, to be given on this occa- 
sion; and naming the speaker (Mr. Norris) and 
myself to join Mr. Thomas Penn and Mr. Secretary 
Peters as commissioners to act for Pennsylvania. 
The House approv'd the nomination, and provided 
the goods for the present, and tho' they did not much 
like treating out of the provinces; and we met the 
other commissioners at Albany about the middle of 
June. 

In our way thither, I projected and drew a plan 
for the union of all the colonies under one govern- 
ment, so far as might be necessary for defense, and 
other important general purposes. As we pass'd 
thro' New Y'ork, I had there shown my project to 
Mr. James Alexander and Mr. Kennedy, two gen- 
tlemen of great knowledge in public affairs, and, 
being fortified by their approbation, I ventur'd to 
lay it before the Congress. It then appeared that 
several of the commissioners had form'd plans of 
the same kind. A previous question was first taken, 
whether a union should be established, which pass'd 
in the affirmative unanimously. A committee was 
then appointed, one member from each colony, to 
consider the several plans and report. Mine hap- 
pen'd to be preferr'd, and, with a few amendments, 
was accordingly reported. 

By this plan the general government was to be 
administered by a president-general, appointed and 
supported by the crown, and a grand council was 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 209 

to be chosen by the representatives of the people 
of the several colonies, met in their respective as- 
semblies. The debates upon it in Congress went 
on daily, hand in hand with the Indian business. 
Many objections and difficulties were started, but at 
length they were all overcome, and the plan was 
unanimously agreed to, and copies ordered to be 
transmitted to the Board of Trade and to the assem- 
blies of the several provinces. Its fate was singu- 
lar: the assemblies did not adopt it, as they all thought 
there was too much "prerogative in it, and in England 
it was judg'd to have too much of the democratic. 
The Board of Trade 1 therefore did not approve of 
it, nor recommend it for the approbation of his ma- 
jesty; but another scheme was form'd, supposed 
to answer the same purpose better, whereby the 
governors of the provinces, with some members 
of their respective councils, were to meet and order 
the raising of troops, building of forts, etc., and to 
draw on the treasury of Great Britain for the ex- 
pense, which was afterwards to be refunded by an 
act of Parliament laying a tax on America. My 
plan, with my reasons in support of it, is to be 
found among my political papers that are printed. 

Being the winter following in Boston, I had much 
conversation with Governor Shirley upon both the 
plans. Part of what passed between us on the oc- 
casion may also be seen among those papers. The 

1 The Board of Trade and Plantations was created in 1695 to dis- 
charge the functions of two separate bodies established by Charles 
II in 1660, of which one had charge of the trade, the other of the 
colonial affairs of the British Empire. 



210 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

different and contrary reasons of dislike to my plan 
makes me suspect that it was really the true me- 
dium; and I am still of opinion it would have been 
happy for both sides the water if it had been adopted. 
The colonies, so united, would have been sufficiently 
strong to have defended themselves; there would 
have then been no need of troops from England; 
of course, the subsequent pretence for taxing America, 
and the bloody contest it occasioned, would have 
been avoided. But such mistakes are not new: 
history is full of the errors of states and princes. 

"Look round the habitable world, how few 
Know their own good, or, knowing it, pursue! " 

Those who govern, having much business on their 
hands, do not generally like to take the trouble of 
considering and carrying into execution new projects. 
The best public measures are therefore seldom adopted 
from previous wisdom, but jorcd by the occasion. 

The Governor of Pennsylvania, in sending it down 
to the Assembly, express 'd his approbation of the 
plan, "as appearing to him to be drawn up with 
great clearness and strength of judgment, and there- 
fore recommended it as well worthy of their closest 
and most serious attention/' The House, however, 
by the management of a certain member, took it 
up when I happened to be absent, which I thought 
not very fair, and reprobated it without paying any 
attention to it at all, to my no small mortification. 

In my journey to Boston this year, I met at New 
York with our new governor, Mr. Morris, just arriv'd 
there from England, with whom I had been before 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 211 

intimately acquainted. He brought a commission 
to supersede Mr. Hamilton, who, tir ? d with the dis- 
putes his proprietary instructions subjected him 
to, had resign' d. Mr. Morris ask'd me if I thought 
he must expect as uncomfortable an administration. 
I said, "No; you may, on the contrary, have a very 
comfortable one, if you will only take care not to 
enter into any dispute with the Assembly." "My dear 
friend," says he, pleasantly, "how can you advise 
my avoiding disputes? You know I love disputing; 
it is one of my greatest pleasures; however, to show 
the regard I have for your counsel, I promise you 
I will, if possible, avoid them." He had some reason 
for loving to dispute, being eloquent, an acute sophister, 
and, therefore, generally successful in argumentative 
conversation. He had been brought up to it from 
a boy, his father, as I have heard, accustoming his 
children to dispute with one another for his diver- 
sion, while sitting at table after dinner; but I think 
the practice was not wise; for, in the course of my 
observation, these disputing, contradicting, and con- 
futing people are generally unfortunate in their affairs. 
They get victory sometimes, but they never get good 
will, which would be of more use to them. We 
parted, he going to Philadelphia, and I to Boston. 

In returning, I met at New York with the votes 
of the Assembly, by which it appear' d that, notwith- 
standing his promise to me, he and the House were 
already in high contention; and it was a continual 
battle between them as long as he retain' d the gov- 
ernment. I had my share of it; for, as soon as I 



212 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

got back to my seat in the Assembly, I was put on 
every committee for answering his speeches and 
messages, and by the committees always desired to 
make the drafts. Our answers, as well as his mes- 
sages, were often tart, and sometimes indecently 
abusive; and, as he knew I wrote for the Assembly, 
one might have imagined that, when we met, we 
could hardly avoid cutting throats; but he was so 
good-natur'd a man that no personal difference be- 
tween him and me was occasion'd by the contest, 
and we often din'd together. 

One afternoon, in the height of this public quar- 
rel, we met in the street. " Franklin/ ' says he, 
"you must go home with me and spend the even- 
ing; I am to have some company that you will like; ^ 
and, taking me by the arm, he led me to his house. 
In gay conversation over our wine, after supper, 
he told us, jokingly, that he much admir'd the idea 
of Sancho Panza, 1 who, when it was proposed to 
give him a government, requested it might be a govern- 
ment of blacks, as then, if he could not agree with 
his people, he might sell them. One of his friends, 
who sat next to me, says, "Franklin, why do you 
continue to side with these damn'd Quakers? Had 
not you better sell them? The proprietor would 
give you a good price." "The governor/ ! says I 
"has not yet blacked them enough." He, indeed, 
had labored hard to blacken the Assembly in all 

1 The squire in attendance upon Don Quixote, the whimsical hero 
of the prose romance of that name by the Spanish author Miguel de 
Cervantes (1547-1616). 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 213 

his messages, but they wip'd off his coloring as fast 
as he laid it on, and plac'd it, in return, thick upon 
his own face; so that, finding he was likely to be 
negro fied himself, he, as well as Mr. Hamilton, grew 
tir'd of the contest, and quitted the government. 

These public quarrels were all at bottom owing 
to the proprietaries, our hereditary governors, who, 
when any expense was to be incurred for the de- 
fense of their province, with incredible meanness 
instructed their deputies to pass no act for levying 
the necessary taxes, unless their vast estates were 
in the same act expressly excused; and they had 
even taken bonds of these deputies to observe such 
instructions. The Assemblies for three years held 
out against this injustice, tho' constrained to bend 
at last. At length Captain Denny, who was Governor 
Morris's successor, ventured to disobey those in- 
structions: how that was brought about I shall show 
hereafter. 

But I am got forward too fast with my story: there 
are still some transactions to be mention' d that hap- 
pened during the administration of Governor Morris. 

War being in a manner commenced with France, 
the government of Massachusetts Bay projected an 
attack upon Crown Point, and sent Mr. Quincy to 
Pennsylvania, and Mr. Pownall, afterward Governor 
Pownall, to New York, to solicit assistance. As I 
was in the Assembly, knew its temper, and was Mr. 
Quincy's countryman, he appli'd to me for my in- 
fluence and assistance. I dictated his address to 
them, which was well receiv'd. They voted an aid 



214 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

of ten thousand pounds, to be laid out in provisions. 
But the governor refusing his assent to their bill 
(which included this with other sums granted for 
the use of the crown), unless a clause were inserted 
exempting the proprietary estate from bearing any 
part of the tax that would be necessary, the Assem- 
bly, tho' very desirous of making their grant to New 
England effectual, were at a loss how to accomplish 
it. Mr. Quincy labored hard with the governor to 
obtain his assent, but he was obstinate. 

I then suggested a method of doing the business 
without the governor, by orders on the trustees of 
the Loan Office, which, by law, the Assembly had 
the right of drawing. There was, indeed, little or 
no money at that time in the office, and therefore I 
propos'd that the orders should be payable in a year, 
and to bear an interest of five per cent. With these 
orders I suppos'd the provisions might easily be 
purchas'd. The Assembly, with very little hesita- 
tion, adopted the proposal. The orders were imme- 
diately printed, and I was one of the committee 
directed to sign and dispose of them. The fund 
for paying them was the interest of all the paper 
currency then extant in the province upon loan, 
together with the revenue arising from the excise, 
which being known to be more than sufficient, they 
obtain' d instant credit, and were not only receiv'd 
in payment for the provisions, but many money' d 
people, who had cash lying by them, vested it in 
those orders, which they found advantageous, as 
they bore interest while upon hand, and might on 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 215 

any occasion be used as money; so that they were 
eagerly all bought up, and in a few weeks none of 
them were to be seen. Thus this important affair 
was by my means compleated. Mr. Quincy re- 
turn' d thanks to the Assembly in a handsome memo- 
rial, went home highly pleas' d with the success of 
his embassy, and ever after bore for me the most 
cordial and affectionate friendship. 

The British government, not chusing to permit 
the union of the colonies as propos'd at Albany, and 
to trust that union with their defense, lest they should 
thereby grow too military, and feel their own strength, 
suspicions and jealousies at this time being enter- 
tain' d of them, sent over General Braddock with 
two regiments of regular English troops for that 
purpose. He landed at Alexandria, in Virginia, 
and thence march' d to Frederictown, in Maryland, 
where he halted for carriages. Our Assembly ap- 
prehending, from some information, that he had con- 
ceived violent prejudices against them, as averse to 
the service, wish'd me to wait upon him, not as from 
them, but as postmaster-general, under the guise 
of proposing to settle with him the mode of conduct- 
ing with most celerity and certainty the despatches 
between him and the governors of the several provinces, 
with whom he must necessarily have continual corre- 
spondence, and of which they propos'd to pay the 
expense. My son accompanied me on this journey. 

We found the general at Frederictown, waiting 
impatiently for the return of those he had sent thro' 
the back parts of Maryland and Virginia to collect 



216 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

waggons. I stayed with him several days, din'd 
with him daily, and had full opportunity of remov- 
ing all his prejudices, by the information of what 
the Assembly had before his arrival actually done, 
and were still willing to do, to facilitate his opera- 
tions. When I was about to depart, the returns of 
waggons to be obtained were brought in, by which it 
appear' d that they amounted only to twenty-five, and 
not all of those were in serviceable condition. The 
general and all the officers were surpris'd, declar'd 
the expedition was then at an end, being impossible, 
and exclaim' d against the ministers for ignorantly 
landing them in a country destitute of the means of 
conveying their stores, baggage, etc., not less than 
one hundred and fifty waggons being necessary. 

I happen' d to say I thought it was pity they had 
not been landed rather in Pennsylvania, as in that 
country almost every farmer had his w r aggon. The 
general eagerly laid hold of my words, and said, 
"Then you, sir, who are a man of interest there, 
can probably procure them for us; and I beg you 
will undertake it." T ask'd what terms were to be 
offer' d the owners of the waggons; and I was de- 
sir' d to put on paper the terms that appeared to me 
necessary. This I did, and they were agreed to, 
and a commission and instructions accordingly pre- 
par'd immediately. What those terms were will 
appear in the advertisement I publish' d as soon as 
I arriv'd at Lancaster, which being, from the great 
and sudden effect it produc'd, a piece of some curi- 
osity, I shall insert it at length, as follows : 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 217 

" Advertisement. 

Lancaster, April 26, 1755. 
"Whereas, one hundred and fifty waggons, with 
four horses to each waggon, and fifteen hundred sad- 
dle or pack horses, are wanted for the service of his 
majesty's forces now about to rendezvous at Will's 
Creek, and his excellency General Braddock having 
been pleased to empower me to contract for the hire 
of the same, I hereby give notice that I shall attend 
for that purpose at Lancaster from this day to next 
Wednesday evening, and at York from next Thurs- 
day morning till Friday evening, where I shall be 
ready to agree for waggons and teams, or single 
horses, on the following terms, viz.: 1. That there 
shall be paid for each waggon, with four good horses 
and a driver, fifteen shillings per diem; and for each 
able horse with a pack-saddle, or other saddle and 
furniture, two shillings per diem; and for each able 
horse without a saddle, eighteen pence per diem. 
2. That the pay commence from the time of their 
joining the forces at Will's Creek, which must be 
on or before the 20th of May ensuing, and that a 
reasonable allowance be paid over and above for the 
time necessary for their travelling to Will's Creek 
and home again after their discharge. 3. Each 
waggon and team, and every saddle or pack horse, 
is to be valued by indifferent persons chosen be- 
tween me and the owner; and in case of the loss of 
any waggon, team, or other horse in the service, the 
price according to such valuation is to be allowed 
and paid. 4. Seven days' pay is to be advanced 



218 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

and paid in hand by me to the owner of each waggon 
and team, or horse, at the time of contracting, if 
required, and the remainder to be paid by General 
Braddock, or by the paymaster of the army, at the 
time of their discharge, or from time to time, as it 
shall be demanded. 5. No drivers of waggons, or 
persons taking care of the hired horses, are on any 
account be called upon to do the duty of soldiers, 
or be otherwise employed than in conducting or 
taking care of their carriages or horses. 6. All oats, 
Indian corn, or other forage that waggons or horses 
bring to the camp, more than is necessary for the 
subsistence of the horses, is to be taken for the use 
of the army, and a reasonable price paid for the 
same. 

"Note. — My son, William Franklin, is empow- 
ered to enter into like contracts with any person in 
Cumberland county. B. Franklin." 

" To the inhabitants of the Counties of Lancaster, 
York, and Cumberland. 

"Friends and Countrymen, 

"Being occasionally at the camp at Frederic a 
few days since, I found the general and officers ex- 
tremely exasperated on account of their not being 
supplied with horses and carriages, which had been 
expected from this province, as most able to furnish 
them; but, through the dissensions between our 
governor and Assembly, money had not been pro- 
vided, nor any steps taken for that purpose. 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 219 

"It was proposed to send an armed force imme- 
diately into these counties, to seize as many of the 
best carriages and horses as should be wanted, and 
compel as many persons into the service as would be 
necessary to drive and take care of them. 

"I apprehended that the progress of British sol- 
diers through these counties on such an occasion, 
especially considering the temper they are in, and 
their resentment against us, would be attended with 
many and great inconveniences to the inhabitants, 
and therefore more willingly took the trouble of 
trying first what might be done by fair and equitable 
means. The people of these back counties have 
lately complained to the Assembly that a sufficient 
currency was wanting; you have an opportunity of 
receiving and dividing among you a very consider- 
able sum; for, if the service of this expedition should 
continue, as it is more than probable it will, for one 
hundred and twenty days, the hire of these waggons 
and horses will amount to upward of thirty thousand 
pounds, which will be paid you in silver and gold 
of the king's money. 

"The service will be light and easy, for the army 
will scarce march above twelve miles per day, and 
the waggons and baggage-horses, as they carry those 
things that are absolutely necessary to the welfare 
of the army, must march with the army, and no 
faster; and are, for the army's sake, always placed 
where they can be most secure, whether in a march 
or in a camp. 

"If you are really, as I believe you are, good and 



220 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY - 

loyal subjects to his majesty, you may now do a 
most acceptable service, and make it easy to your- 
selves; for three or four of such as can not separately 
spare from the business of their plantations a waggon 
and four horses and a driver, may do it together, 
one furnishing the waggon, another one or two horses, 
and another the driver, and divide the pay propor- 
tionably between you; but if you do not this service 
to your king and country voluntarily, when such good 
pay and reasonable terms are offered to you, your 
loyalty will be strongly suspected. The king's busi- 
ness must be done; so many brave troops, come so 
far for your defense, must not stand idle through 
your backwardness to do what may be reasonably 
expected from you; waggons and horses must be 
had; violent measures will probably be used, and you 
will be left to seek for a recompense where you can 
find it, and your case, perhaps, be little pitied or 
regarded. 

"I have no particular interest in this affair, as, 
except the satisfaction of endeavoring to do good, I 
shall have only my labor for my pains. If this method 
of obtaining the waggons and horses is not likely 
to succeed, I am obliged to send word to the general 
in fourteen days; and I suppose Sir John St. Clair, 
the hussar, with a body of soldiers, will immediately 
enter the province for the purpose, which I shall 
be sorry to hear, because I am very sincerely and 
truly your friend and well wisher, 

"B. Franklin." 



OF BFXJAMIN FRANKLIN 221 

I received of the general about eight hundred 
pounds, to be disbursed in advance-money to the 
waggon owners, etc.; but that sum being insuffi- 
cient, I advanc'd upward of two hundred pounds 
more, and in two weeks the one hundred and fifty 
waggons, with two hundred and fifty-nine carrying 
horses, were on their march for the* camp. The 
advertisement promised payment according to the 
valuation, in case any waggon or horse should be 
lost. The owners, however, alleging they did not 
know General Braddock, or what dependence might 
be had on his promise, insisted on my bond for the 
performance, which I accordingly gave them. 

While I was at the camp, supping one evening 
with the officers of Colonel Dunbar's regiment, he 
represented to me his concern for the subalterns, 
who, he said, were generally not in affluence, and 
could ill afford, in this dear country, to lay in the 
stores that might be necessary in so long a march, 
thro' a wilderness, where nothing was to be pur- 
chas'd. I commiserated their case, and resolved 
to endeavor procuring them some relief. I said 
nothing, however, to him of my intention, but wrote 
the next morning to the committee of the Assembly, 
who had the disposition of some public money, 
warmly recommending the case of these officers to 
their consideration, and proposing that a present 
should be sent them of necessaries and refreshments. 
My son, who had some experience of a camp life, 
and of its wants, drew up a list for me, which I en- 
clos'd in my letter. The committee appro v'd, and 



222 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

used such diligence that, conducted by my son, the 
stores arrived at the camp as soon as the waggons. 
They consisted of twenty parcels, each containing 

6 lbs. loaf sugar. 1 Gloucester cheese. 

6 lbs. good Muscovado do. 1 kegg containing 20 lbs. 
1 lb. good green tea. good butter. 

1 lb. good bohea do. 2 doz. old Madeira wine. 

6 lbs. good ground coffee. 2 gallons Jamaica spirits. 

6 lbs. chocolate. 1 bottle flour of mustard. 

1-2 cwt. best white biscuit. 2 well-cur'd hams. 

1-2 lb. pepper. 1-2 dozen dry'd tongues. 

1 quart best white wine vine- 6 lbs. rice, 

gar. 6 lbs. raisins. 

These twenty parcels, well pack'd, were placed 
on as many horses, each parcel, with the horse, being 
intended as a present for one officer. They were 
very thankfully receiv'd, and the kindness acknowl- 
edge by letters to me from the colonels of both regi- 
ments, in the most grateful terms. The general, 
too, was highly satisfied with my conduct in procur- 
ing him the waggons, etc., and readily paid my account 
of disbursements, thanking me repeatedly, and re- 
questing my farther assistance in sending provisions 
after him. I undertook this also, and was busily 
employ' d in it till we heard of his defeat, advancing 
for the service of my own money, upwards of one 
thousand pounds sterling, of which I sent him an 
account. It came to his hands, luckily for me, a 
few days before the battle, and he return' d me im- 
mediately an order on the paymaster for the round 
sum of one thousand pounds, leaving the remainder 
to the next account. I consider this payment as 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 223 

good luck, having never been able to obtain that 
remainder, of which more hereafter. 

This general was, I think, a brave man, and might 
probably have made a figure as a good officer in 
some European war. But he had too much self- 
confidence, too high an opinion of the validity of 
regular troops, and too mean a one of both Amer- 
icans and Indians. George Croghan, our Indian in- 
terpreter, join'd him on his march with one hundred 
of those people, who might have been of great use 
to his army as guides, scouts, etc., if he had treated 
them kindly; but he slighted and neglected them, 
and they gradually left him. 

In conversation with him one day, he was giving 
me some account of his intended progress. "After 
taking Fort Duquesne," says he, "I am to proceed 
to Niagara; and, having taken that, to Frontenac, 
if the season will allow time; and I suppose it will, 
for Duquesne can hardly detain me above three or 
four days; and then I see nothing that can obstruct 
my march to Niagara." Having before revolv'd in 
my mind the long line his army must make in their 
march by a very narrow road, to be cut for them 
thro' the woods and bushes, and also what I had 
read of a former defeat of fifteen hundred French, 
who invaded the Iroquois country, I had conceiv'd 
some doubts and some fears for the event of the 
campaign. But I ventur'd only to say, "To be 
sure, sir, if you arrive well before Duquesne, with 
these fine troops, so well provided with artillery, 
that place not yet compleatly fortified, and as we 



224 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

hear with no very strong garrison, can probably 
make but a short resistance. The only danger I 
apprehend of obstruction to your march is from am- 
buscades of Indians, who, by constant practice, are 
dexterous in laying and executing them; and the 
slender line, near four miles long, which your army 
must make, may expose it to be attack' d by surprise 
in its flanks, and to be cut like a thread into several 
pieces, which, from their distance, can not come up 
in time to support each other." 

He smil'd at my ignorance, and reply'd, "These 
savages may, indeed, be a formidable enemy to your 
raw American militia, but upon the king's regular 
and disciplin'd troops, sir, it is impossible they should 
make any impression." I was conscious of an im- 
propriety in my disputing with a military man in 
matters of his profession, and said no more. The 
enemy, however, did not take the advantage of his 
army which I apprehended its long line of march 
expos' d it to, but let it advance without interruption 
till within nine miles of the place; and then, when 
more in a body (for it had just passed a river, where 
the front had halted till all were come over), and in 
a more open part of the woods than any it had pass'd, 
attack' d its advanced guard by a heavy fire from 
behind trees and bushes, which was the first intel- 
ligence the general had of an enemy's being near 
him. This guard being disordered, the general hur- 
ried the troops up to their assistance, which was 
done in great confusion, thro' w T aggons, baggage, 
and cattle; and presently the fire came upon their 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 225 

flank: the officers, being on horseback, were more 
easily distinguished, pick'd out as marks, and fell 
very fast; and the soldiers were crowded together 
in a huddle, having or hearing no orders, and stand- 
ing to be shot at till two-thirds of them were killed; 
and then, being seiz'd with a panick, the whole fled 
with precipitation. 

The waggoners took each a horse out of his team 
and scamper 1 d; their example was immediately fol- 
lowed by others; so that all the w T aggons, provisions, 
artillery, and stores were left to the enemy. The 
general, being wounded, was brought off with diffi- 
culty; his secretary, Mr. Shirley, was killed by his 
side; and out of eighty-six officers, sixty-three were 
killed or wounded, and seven hundred and fourteen 
men killed out of eleven hundred. These eleven 
hundred had been picked men from the whole army; 
the rest had been left behind with Colonel Dunbar, 
who was to follow with the heavier part of the stores, 
provisions, and baggage. The flyers, not being pur- 
su'd, arriv'd at Dunbar's camp, and the panick they 
brought with them instantly seizd him and all his 
people; and, tho ? he had now above one thousand 
men, and the enemy who had beaten Braddock did 
not at most exceed four hundred Indians and French 
together, instead of proceeding, and endeavoring 
to recover some of the lost honour, he ordered all 
the stores, ammunition, etc., to be destroyed, that 
he might have more horses to assist his flight towards 
the settlements, and less lumber to remove. He 
was there met with requests from the governors of 



226 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, that he would 
post his troops on the frontiers, so as to afford some 
protection to the inhabitants; but he continu'd his 
hasty march thro' all the country, not thinking him- 
self safe till he arriv'd at Philadelphia, where the 
inhabitants could protect him. This whole trans- 
action gave us Americans the first suspicion that our 
exalted ideas of the prowess of British regulars had 
not been well founded. 

In their first march, too, from their landing till 
they got beyond the settlements, they had plundered 
and stripped the inhabitants, totally ruining some 
poor families, besides insulting, abusing, and con- 
fining the people if they remonstrated. This was 
enough to put us out of conceit of such defenders, if 
we had really wanted any. How different was the 
conduct of our French friends in 1781, who, during 
a march thro' the most inhabited part of our country 
from Rhode Island to Virginia, near seven hundred 
miles, occasioned not the smallest complaint for the 
loss of a pig, a chicken, or even an apple. 

Captain Orme, who was one of the general's aids- 
de-camp, and, being grievously wounded, was brought 
off with him, and continu'd with him to his death, 
which happen' d in a few days, told me that he was 
totally silent all the first day, and at night only said, 
"Who would have thought it?" That he was silent 
again the following day, saying only at last, "We 
shall better know how to deal with them another time;" 
and dy'd in a few minutes after. 

The secretary's papers, with all the general's or- 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 227 

ders, instructions, and correspondence, falling into 
the enemy's hands, they selected and translated into 
French a number of the articles, which they printed, 
to prove the hostile intentions of the British court 
before the declaration of war. Among these I saw 
some letters of the general to the ministry, speaking 
highly of the great service I had rendered the army, 
and recommending me to their notice. David Hume, 
too, who was some years after secretary to Lord 
Hertford, when minister in France,, and afterward 
to General Conway, when secretary of state, told 
me he had seen among the papers in that office, let- 
ters from Braddock highly recommending me. But, 
the expedition having been unfortunate, my service, 
it seems, was not thought of much value, for those 
recommendations were never of any use to me. 

As to rewards from himself, I ask'd only one, 
which was, that he would give orders to his officers 
not to enlist any more of our bought servants, and 
that he would discharge such as had been already 
enlisted. This he readily granted, and several were 
accordingly return' d to their masters, on my appli- 
cation. Dunbar, when the command devolv'd on 
him, was not so generous. He being at Philadelphia, 
on his retreat, or rather flight, I apply' d to him for 
the discharge of the servants of three poor farmers 
of Lancaster county that he had enlisted, reminding 
him of the late general's orders on that head. He 
promised me that, if the masters would come to him 
at Trenton, where he should be in a few days on 
his march to New York, he would there deliver their 



228 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

men to them. They accordingly were at the ex- 
pense and trouble of going to Trenton, and there he 
refused to perform his promise, to their great loss and 
disappointment. 

As soon as the loss of the waggons and horses was 
generally known, all the owners came upon me for 
the valuation which I had given bond to pay. Their 
demands gave me a great deal of trouble, my ac- 
quainting them that the money was ready in the 
paymaster's hands, but that orders for paying it must 
first be obtained from General Shirley, and my assur- 
ing them that I had apply 1 d to that general by letter; 
but, he being at a distance, an answer could not 
soon be receiv'd, and they must have patience, all 
this was not sufficient to satisfy, and some began to 
sue me. General Shirley at length relieved me from 
this terrible situation by appointing commissioners 
to examine the claims, and ordering payment. They 
amounted to near twenty thousand pounds, which to 
pay would have ruined me. 

Before we had the news of this defeat, the two 
Doctors Bond came to me with a subscription paper 
for raising money to defray the expense of a grand 
firework, which it was intended to exhibit at a re- 
joicing on receipt of the news of our taking Fort 
Duquesne. I looked grave, and said it would, I 
thought, be time enough to prepare for the rejoicing 
when we knew we should have occasion to rejoice. 
They seem'd surpris'd that I did not immediately 
comply with their proposal. "Why the d — 1!" says 
one of them, "you surely don't suppose that the fort 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 229 

will not be taken?" "I don't know that it will not 
be taken, but I know that the events of war are sub- 
ject to great uncertainty." I gave them the reasons 
of my doubting; the subscription was dropt, and the 
projectors thereby missed the mortification they would 
have undergone if the firework had been prepared. 
Dr. Bond, on some other occasion afterward, said 
that he did not like Franklin's forebodings. 

Governor Morris, who had continually worried 
the Assembly with message after message before the 
defeat of Braddock, to beat them into the making 
of acts to raise money for the defense of the province, 
without taxing, among others, the proprietary estates, 
and had rejected all their bills for not having such 
an exempting clause, now redoubled his attacks 
with more hope of success, the danger and necessity 
being greater. The Assembly, however, continu d 
firm, believing they had justice on their side, and 
that it would be giving up an essential right if they 
suffered the governor to amend their money-bills. 
In one of the last, indeed, which was for granting 
fifty thousand pounds, his propos'd amendment was 
only of a single word. The bill express'd "that all 
estates, real and personal, were to be taxed, those 
of the proprietaries not excepted." His amendment 
was, for not read only: & small, but very material 
alteration. However, when the news of this dis- 
aster reached England, our friends there, whom we 
had taken care to furnish with all the Assembly's 
answers to the governor's messages, rais'd a clamor 
against the proprietaries for their meanness and in- 



230 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

justice in giving their governor such instructions; 
some going so far as to say that, by obstructing the 
defense of their province, they forfeited their right 
to it. They were intimidated by this, and sent orders 
to their receiver-general to add five thousand pounds 
of their money to whatever sum might be given by 
the Assembly for such purpose. 

This, being notified to the House, was accepted 
in lieu of their share of a general tax, and a new bill 
was form'd, with an exempting clause, which passed 
accordingly. By this act I was appointed one of 
the commissioners for disposing of the money, sixty 
thousand pounds. I had been active in modelling 
the bill and procuring its passage, and had, at the 
same time, drawn a bill for establishing and dis- 
ciplining a voluntary militia, which I carried thro' 
the House without much difficulty, as care was taken 
in it to leave the Quakers at their liberty. To pro- 
mote the association necessary to form the militia, 
I wrote a dialogue, 1 stating and answering all the 
objections I could think of to such a militia, which 
was printed, and had, as I thought, great effect. 

While the several companies in the city and coun- 
try were forming, and learning their exercise, the 
governor prevail' d with me to take charge of our 
North-western frontier, which was infested by the 
enemy, and provide for the defense of the inhabitants 
by raising troops and building a line of forts. I 

1 Entitled A Dialogue between X, Y, and Z concerning the present 
State of Affairs in Pennsylvania and printed in the Pennsylvania 
Gazette in 1755. 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 231 

undertook this military business, tho' I did not con- 
ceive myself well qualified for it. He gave me a 
commission with full powers, and a parcel of blank 
commissions for officers, to be given to whom I thought 
fit. I had but little difficulty in raising men, having 
soon five hundred and sixty under my command. 
My son, who had in the preceding war been an officer 
in the army rais'd against Canada, was my aid-de- 
camp, and of great use to me. The Indians had 
burned Gnadenhut, a village settled by the Mora- 
vians, 1 and massacred the inhabitants; but the place 
was thought a good situation for one of the forts. 

In order to march thither, I assembled the com- 
panies at Bethlehem, the chief establishment of those 
people. I was surprised to find it in so good a pos- 
ture of defense; the destruction of Gnadenhut had 
made them apprehend danger. The principal build- 
ings were defended by a stockade; they had pur- 
chased a quantity of arms and ammunition from 
New York, and had even plac'd quantities of small 
paving stones between the windows of their high 
stone houses, for their women to throw down upon 
the heads of any Indians that should attempt to 
force into them. The armed brethren, too, kept 
watch, and reliev'd as methodically as in any gar- 
rison town. In conversation with the bishop, Span- 
genberg, I mentioned this my surprise; for, knowing 

1 A religious sect known as the United Brethren, which traces its 
origin to the Bohemian maityr John Hus. In 1627 the United 
Brethren were expelled from Moravia and Bohemia and settled, a 
part at Herrnhut, Saxony, a part in England, and a part in the 
neighborhood of Gnadenhut, Pennsylvania. 



232 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

they had obtained an act of Parliament exempt- 
ing them from military duties in the colonies, I had 
supposed they were conscientiously scrupulous of 
bearing arms. He answer' d me that it was not one 
of their established principles, but that, at the time 
of their obtaining that act, it was thought to be a 
principle with many of their people. On this occa- 
sion, however, they, to their surprise, found it adopted 
by but a few. It seems they were either deceiv'd 
in themselves, or deceiv'd the Parliament; but com- 
mon sense, aided by present danger, will sometimes 
be too strong for whimsical opinions. 

It was the beginning of January when we set out 
upon this business of building forts. I sent one de- 
tachment toward the Minisink, with instructions to 
erect one for the security of that upper part of the 
country, and another to the lower part, with similar 
instructions; and I concluded to go myself with the 
rest of my force to Gnadenhut, where a fort was tho't 
more immediately necessary. The Moravians procur'd 
me five waggons for our tools, stores, baggage, etc. 

Just before we left Bethlehem, eleven farmers, 
who had been driven from their plantations by the 
Indians, came to me requesting a supply of firearms, 
that they might go back and fetch off their cattle. 
I gave them each a gun with suitable ammunition. 
We had not march' d many miles before it began to 
rain, and it continued raining all day; there were 
no habitations on the road to shelter us, till we ar- 
riv'd near night at the house of a German, where, 
and in his barn, we were all huddled together, as wet 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 233 

as water could make us. It was well we were not 
attack' d in our march, for our arms were of the most 
ordinary sort, and our men could not keep their gun 
locks dry. The Indians are dextrous in contrivances 
for that purpose, which we had not. They met 
that day the eleven poor farmers above mentioned, 
and killed ten of them. The one who escap'd in- 
form' d that his and his companions' guns would not 
go off, the priming being wet with the rain. 

The next day being fair, we continu'd our march, 
and arriv'd at the desolated Gnadenhut. There was 
a saw-mill near, round which were left several piles 
of boards, with which we soon hutted ourselves; an 
operation the more necessary at that inclement sea- 
son, as we had no tents. Our first work was to bury 
more effectually the dead we found there, who had 
been half interr'd by the country people. 

The next morning our fort was plann'd and mark'd 
out, the circumference measuring four hundred and 
fifty-five feet, which would require as many palisades 
to be made of trees, one with another, of a foot diameter 
each. Our axes, of which we had seventy, were 
immediately set to work to cut down trees, and, our 
men being dextrous in the use of them, great despatch 
was made. Seeing the trees fall so fast, I had the 
curiosity to look at my watch when two men began 
to cut at a pine; in six minutes they had it upon the 
ground, and I found it of fourteen inches diameter. 
Each pine made three palisades of eighteen feet 
long, pointed at one end. While these were preparing, 
our other men dug a trench all round, of three feet 



234 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

deep, in which the palisades were to be planted; and, 
our waggons, the bodys being taken off, and the fore 
and hind wheels separated by taking out the pin 
which united the tw T o parts of the perch, we had 
ten carriages, with two horses each, to bring the 
palisades from the woods to the spot. When they 
were set up, our carpenters built a stage of boards 
all round within, about six feet high, for the men 
to stand on when to fire thro' the loopholes. We 
had one swivel gun, which we mounted on one of 
the angles, and fir'd it as soon as fix'd, to let the 
Indians know, if any were within hearing, that we had 
such pieces; and thus our fort, if such a magnificent 
name may be given to so miserable a stockade, was 
finish' d in a week, though it rain'd so hard every 
other day that the men could not work. 

This gave me occasion to observe, that, when 
men are employ' d, they are best content' d; for on 
the days they worked they were good-natur'd and 
cheerful, and, with the consciousness of having done 
a good day's work, they spent the evening jollily; 
but on our idle days they were mutinous and quar- 
relsome, finding fault with their pork, the bread, etc., 
and in continual ill-humor, which put me in mind 
of a sea-captain, whose rule it was to keep his men 
constantly at work; and, when his mate once told 
him that they had done every thing, and there was 
nothing further to employ them about, "Oh," says 
he, "make them scour the anchor." 1 

1 Franklin was always very fond of repeating or inventing hu- 
morous anecdotes in which, as here, the point of the story is brought 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 235 

This kind of fort, however contemptible, is a suf- 
ficient defense against Indians, who have no cannon. 
Finding ourselves now posted securely, and having 
a place to retreat to on occasion, we ventur'd out in 
parties to scour the adjacent country. We met with 
no Indians, but we found the places on the neigh- 
boring hills where they had lain to watch our pro- 
ceedings. There was an art in their contrivance of 
those places that seems worth mention. It being 
winter, a fire was necessary for them; but a com- 
mon fire on the surface of the ground would by its 
light have discover' d their position at a distance. 
They had therefore dug holes in the ground about 
three feet diameter, and somewhat deeper; we saw 
where they had with their hatchets cut off the char- 
coal from the sides of burnt logs lying in the woods. 
With these coals they had made small fires in the 
bottom of the holes, and we observ'd among the 
weeds and grass the prints of their bodies, made by 
their laying all round, with their legs hanging down 
in the holes to keep their feet warm, which, with 
them, is an essential point. This kind of fire, so man- 
aged, could not discover them, either by its light, flame, 
sparks, or even smoke; it appear' d that their number 
was not great, and it seems they saw we were too many 
to be attacked by them with prospect of advantage. 

out in a single characteristic sentence at the end. Compare for other 
happy instances of this rhetorical device of suspension, Franklin's 
story of the "Handsome and Deformed Leg" in Selections from the 
writings of Franklin by U. Waldo Cutler, pp. 120 ff., of the "Whistle" 
in the same volume, pp. 123 ff., and his account of the "Savages of 
North America," pp. 172 ff. 



236 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

We had for our chaplain a zealous Presbyterian 
minister, Mr. Beatty, who complained to me that 
the men did not generally attend his prayers and 
exhortations. When they enlisted, they were prom- 
ised, besides pay and provisions, a gill of rum a day, 
which was punctually serv'd out to them, half in 
the morning, and the other half in the evening; and 
I observ'd they were as punctual in attending to re- 
ceive it; upon which I said to Mr. Beatty, "It is, 
perhaps, below the dignity of your profession to act 
as steward of the rum, but if you were to deal it out 
and only just after prayers, you would have them 
all about you." He liked the tho't, undertook the 
office, and, with the help of a few hands to measure 
out the liquor, executed it to satisfaction, and never 
were prayers more generally and more punctually 
attended; so that I thought this method preferable 
to the punishment inflicted by some military laws for 
non-attendance on divine service. 

I had hardly finish' d this business, and got my 
fort well stor'd with provisions, when I receiv'd a 
letter from the governor, acquainting me that he had 
call'd the iVssembly, and wished my attendance 
there, if the posture of affairs on the frontiers was 
such that my remaining there was no longer neces- 
sary. My friends, too, of the Assembly, pressing 
me by their letters to be, if possible, at the meeting, 
and my three intended forts being now compleated, 
and the inhabitants contented to remain on their 
farms under that protection, I resolved to return; 
the more willingly, as a New England officer, Colonel 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 237 

Clapham, experienced in Indian war, being on a 
visit to our establishment, consented to accept the 
command. I gave him a commission, and, parad- 
ing 'the garrison, had it read before them, and intro- 
duce him to them as an officer who, from his skill 
in military affairs, was much more fit to command 
them than myself; and, giving them a little exhor- 
tation, took my leave. I was escorted as far as Bethle- 
hem, where I rested a few days to recover from the 
fatigue I had undergone. The first night, being in 
a good bed, I could hardly sleep, it was so different 
from my hard lodging on the floor of our hut at Gnaden 
wrapt only in a blanket or two. 

While at Bethlehem, I inquir'd a little into the 
practice of the Moravians: some of them had accom- 
panied me, and all were very kind to me. I found 
they work'd for a common stock, eat at common 
tables, and slept in common dormitories, great num- 
bers together. In the dormitories I observed loop- 
holes, at certain distances all along just under the 
ceiling, which I thought judiciously placed for change 
of air. I was at their church, where I was enter- 
tained with good musick, the organ being accom- 
panied with violins, hautboys, flutes, clarinets, etc. 
I understood that their sermons were not usually 
preached to mixed congregations of men, women, 
and children, as is our common practice, but that 
they assembled sometimes the married men, at other 
times their wives, then the young men, the young 
women, and the little children, each division by 
itself, The sermon I heard was to the latter, who 



238 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

came in and were placd in rows on benches; the 
boys under the conduct of a young man, their tutor, 
and the girls conducted by a young woman. The 
discourse seem'd well adapted to their capacities, 
and was deliver'd in a pleasing, familiar manner, 
coaxing them, as it were, to be good. They behav'd 
very orderly, but looked pale and unhealthy, which 
made me suspect they were kept too much within 
doors, or not allow'd sufficient exercise. 

I inquir'd concerning the Moravian marriages, 
whether the report was true that they were by lot. 
I was told that lots were us'd only in particular cases; 
that generally, when a young man found himself 
dispos'd to marry, he inform' d the elders of his class, 
who consulted the elder ladies that governVl the 
young women. As these elders of the different 
sexes were well acquainted with the tempers and 
dispositions of their respective pupils, they eoujd 
best judge what matches were suitable, and their 
judgments were generally acquiesc'd in; but if, for 
example, it should happen that two or three young 
women were found to be equally proper for the young 
man, the lot was then recurred to. I objected, if 
the matches are not made by the mutual choice of 
the parties, some of them may chance to be very un- 
happy. ".And so they may," answer' d my informer, 
"if you let the parties chuse for themselves;" which, 
indeed, I could not deny. 

Being returned to Philadelphia, I found the asso- 
ciation went on swimmingly, the inhabitants that 
were not Quakers having pretty generally come into 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 239 

it, formed themselves into companies, and chose 
their captains, lieutenants, and ensigns, according 
to the new law. Dr. B. visited me, and gave me 
an account of the pains he had taken to spread a 
general good liking to the law, and ascribed much to 
those endeavors. I had had the vanity to ascribe all 
to my Dialogue; however, not knowing but that he 
might be in the right, I let him enjoy his opinion, 
which I take to be generally the best way in such 
cases. The officers, meeting, chose me to be colo- 
nel of the regiment, which I this time accepted. I 
forget how many companies we had, but we paraded 
about twelve hundred well-looking men, with a 
company of artillery, who had been furnished with 
six brass field-pieces, which they had become so 
expert in the use of as to fire twelve times in a minute. 
The first time I reviewed my regiment they accom- 
panied me to my house, and would salute me with 
some rounds fired before my door, which shook 
down and broke several glasses of my electrical ap- 
paratus. And my new honour proved not much 
less brittle; for all our commissions w T ere soon after 
broken by a repeal of the law in England. 

During this short time of .my colonelship, being 
about to set out on a journey to Virginia, the officers 
of my regiment took it into their heads that it would 
be proper for them to escort me out of town, as far 
as the Lower Ferry. Just as I was getting on horse- 
back they came to my door, between thirty and forty, 
mounted, and all in their uniforms. I had not been 
previously acquainted with the project, or I should 



240 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

have prevented it, being naturally averse to the assum- 
ing of state on any occasion; 1 and I was a good deal 
chagrin' d at their appearance, as I could not avoid 
their accompanying me. What made it worse was, 
that, as soon as we began to move, they drew their 
swords and rode with them naked all the way. Some- 
body wrote an account of this to the proprietor, 2 
and it gave him great offense. No such honor had 
been paid him when in the province, nor to any of 
his governors; and he said it was only proper to princes 
of the blood royal, which may be true for aught I 
know, who was, and still am, ignorant of the eti- 
quette in such cases. 

This silly affair, however, greatly increased his 
rancour against me, which was before not a little, 
on account of my conduct in the Assembly respect- 
ing the exemption of his estate from taxation, which 
I had always oppos'd very warmly, and not with- 



1 Franklin was unquestionably sincere in this expression of distaste 
for ostentation or the display of military or official splendor on state 
occasions. The story, so admirably parodied by Thackeray in his 
American Burlesques, of how Franklin appeared before the French 
monarch, Louis XVI., in fur cap and spectacles, recalls the well-known 
tradition of Jefferson's habit of wearing slippers on the occasion of 
official functions at the White House. Like Jefferson, Franklin was 
also opposed to anything that savored of an hereditarj^ nobility in 
America; in an entertaining article on The Order of the Cincin- 
nati he holds up to ridicule what he regarded as the monarchical pre- 
tensions of that body. 

2 Thomas, the son of William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania. 
At his death in 1718 William Penn had bequeathed his estates in 
Pennsylvania to his three sons, John, Thomas, and Richard, giving 
one-half of the estate to John, his eldest son, and dividing the remain- 
der equally between Thomas and Richard. In 1746, however, John 
Penn died, bequeathing his entire share in the estate to Thomas, who 
thus became owner of three-quarters of his father's property. 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 241 

out severe reflections on his meanness and injustice 
of contending for it. 1 He accused me to the minis- 
try as being the great obstacle .to the king's service, 
preventing, by my influence in the House, the proper 
form of the bills for raising money, and he instanced 
this parade with my officers as a proof of my having 
an intention to take the government of the province 
out of his hands by force. He also applied to Sir 
Everard Fawkener, the postmaster-general, to de- 
prive me of my office; but it had no other effect than 
to procure from Sir Everard a gentle admonition. 

Notwithstanding the continual wrangle between 
the governor and the House, in which I, as a mem- 
ber, had so large a share, there still subsisted a civil 
intercourse between that gentleman and myself, and 
we never had any personal difference. I have some- 
times since thought that his little or no resentment 
against me, for the answers it was known I drew up 
to his messages, might be the effect of professional 
habit, and that, being bred a lawyer, he might con- 
sider us both as merely advocates for contending 
clients in a suit, he for the proprietaries and I for 
the Assembly. He would, therefore, sometimes call 
in a friendly way to advise with me on difficult points, 
and sometimes, tho' not often, take my advice. 

We acted in concert to supply Braddock's army 
with provisions; and, when the shocking news ar- 

1 It was because he had always warmly espoused the cause of the 
Pennsylvania Assembly, which, as representing the people, had ob- 
jected to the exemption of the proprietary estates from taxation, 
that Franklin was chosen in 1757 to go to England and plead with 
the Proprietors and the Privy Council in person. 



242 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

rived of his defeat, the governor sent in haste for 
me, to consult with him on measures for preventing 
the desertion of the back counties. I forget now 
the advice I gave; but I think it was, that Dunbar 
should be written to, and prevail' d with, if possible, 
to post his troops on the frontiers for their protec- 
tion, till, by re-enforcements from the colonies, he 
might be able to proceed on the expedition. And, 
after my return from the frontier, he would have had 
me undertake the conduct of such an expedition 
with provincial troops, for the reduction of Fort 
Duquesne, Dunbar and his men being otherwise 
employed, and he proposed to commission me as 
general. I had not so good an opinion of my mili- 
tary abilities as he profess 'd to have, and I believe 
his professions must have exceeded his real senti- 
ments; but probably he might think that my popu- 
larity would facilitate the raising of the men, and 
my influence in Assembly, the grant of money to 
pay them, and that, perhaps, without taxing the 
proprietary estate. Finding me not so forward to 
engage as he expected, the project was dropt, and 
he soon after left the government, being superseded 
by Captain Denny. 

Before I proceed in relating the part I had in pub- 
lic affairs under this new governor's administration, 
it may not be amiss here to give some account of the 
rise and progress of my philosophical reputation. 

In 1746, being at Boston, I met there with a Dr. 
Spence, who was lately arrived from Scotland, and 
show'd me some electric experiments. They were 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 243 

imperfectly perform' d, as he was not very expert; 
but, being on a subject quite new to me, they equally 
surpris'd and pleased me. Soon after my return 
to Philadelphia, our library company receiv'd from 
Mr. P. Collinson, Fellow of the Royal Society of 
London, a present of a glass tube, with some account 
of the use of it in making such experiments. I eagerly 
seized the opportunity of repeating what I had seen 
at Boston; and, by much practice, acquir'd great 
readiness in performing those, also, which we had 
an account of from England, adding a number of new 
ones. I say much practice, for my house was con- 
tinually full, for some time, with people who came 
to see these new wonders. 

To divide a little this incumbrance among my 
friends, I caused a number of similar tubes to be 
blown at our glass-house, with which they furnish' d 
themselves, so that we had at length several per- 
formers. Among these, the principal was Mr. Kin- 
nersley, an ingenious neighbor, who, being out of 
business, I encouraged to undertake showing the 
experiments for money, and drew up for him two 
lectures, in which the experiments were rang'd in 
such order, and accompanied with such explanations 
in such method, as that the foregoing should assist 
in comprehending the following. He procur'd an 
elegant apparatus for the purpose, in which all the 
little machines that I had roughly made for myself 
were nicely form'd by instrument-makers. His lectures 
were well attended, and gave great satisfaction; and 
after some time he went thro' the colonies, exhibit- 



244 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

ing them in every capital town, and pick'd up some 
money. In the West India islands, indeed, it was 
with difficulty the experiments could be made, from 
the general moisture of the air. 

Oblig'd as we were to Mr. Collinson for his present 
of the tube, etc., I thought it right he should be in- 
form' d of our success in using it, and wrote him several 
letters containing accounts of our experiments. He 
got them read in the Royal Society, where they were 
not at first thought worth so much notice as to be 
printed in their Transactions. One paper, which I 
wrote for Mr. Kinnersley, on the sameness of lightning 
with electricity, 1 I sent to Dr. Mitchel, an acquaint- 
ance of mine, and one of the members also of that 
society, who wrote me word that it had been read, 
but was laughed at by the connoisseurs. The papers, 
however, being shown to Dr. Fothergill, he thought 
them of too much value to be stifled, and ad vis' d 
the printing of them. Mr. Collinson then gave 
them to Cave for publication in his Gentleman's 
Magazine; 2 but he chose to print them separately 
in a pamphlet, and Dr. Fothergill wrote the preface. 
Cave, it seems, judged rightly for his profit, for by 
the additions that arrived afterward, they swell' d 

1 Even before his kite experiment Franklin had become convinced, 
by observing the similarity between the effects produced by lightning 
and electricity, that both agencies were identical. This experiment, 
therefore, served merely to substantiate his conviction. 

2 Edward Cave (1691-1754), a famous and able printer, the founder 
of the Gentleman's Magazine, a monthly miscellany, which welcomed 
contributions from poor and needy authors. Among other contrib- 
utors was Dr. Samuel Johnson who published many of his earlier 
works there and who frequently alludes to the generosity of Cave, 
for whom he cherished an enduring friendship. 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 245 

to a quarto volume, which has had five editions, and 
cost him nothing for copy-money. 

It was, however, some time before those papers 
were much taken notice of in England. A copy of 
them happening to fall into the hands of the Count 
de Buffon, 1 a philosopher deservedly of great reputa- 
tion in France, and, indeed, all over Europe, he 
prevailed with M. Dalibard to translate them into 
French, and they were printed at Paris. The pub- 
lication offended the Abbe Nollet, preceptor in Natural 
Philosophy to the royal family, and an able experi- 
menter, who had form'd and publish' d a theory 
of electricity, which then had the general vogue. 2 
He could not at first believe that such a work came 
from America, and said it must have been fabricated 
by his enemies at Paris, to decry his system. After- 
wards, having been assur d that there really existed 
such a person as Franklin at Philadelphia, which 
he had doubted, he wrote and published a volume 
of Letters, chiefly address' d to me, defending his 
theory, and denying the verity of my experiments, 
and of the positions deduc'd from them. 

I once purpos'd answering the abbe, and actually 
began the answer; but, on consideration that my 
writings contain 'd a description of experiments which 
any one might repeat and verify, and if not to be 
verifi'd, could not be defended; or of observations 



1 The famous French naturalist (1707-1788). 

2 The Abbe Nollet urged the old fashioned theory that electricity 
was not, as Franklin held, an element inherent in all matter, but that 
it could be superficially induced by friction. 



246 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

offer' d as conjectures, and not delivered dogmat- 
ically, therefore not laying me under any obligation 
to defend them; and reflecting that a dispute be- 
tween two persons, writing in different languages, 
might be lengthened greatly by mistranslations, and 
thence misconceptions of one another's meaning, 
much of one of the abbe's letters being founded on 
an error in the translation, I concluded to let my 
papers shift for themselves, believing it was better 
to spend what time I could spare from public busi- 
ness in making new experiments, than in disputing 
about those already made. I therefore never answered 
M. Nollet, and the event gave me no cause to repent 
my silence; for my friend M. le Roy, of the Royal 
Academy of Sciences, took up my cause and refuted 
him; my book was translated into the Italian, Ger- 
man, and Latin languages; and the doctrine it contain'd 
was by degrees universally adopted by the philosophers 
of Europe, in preference to that of the abbe; so that 
he lived to see himself the last of his sect, except Mon- 
sieur B , of Paris, his Sieve and immediate disciple. 

What gave my book the more sudden and gen- 
eral celebrity, was the success of one of its proposed 
experiments, made by Messrs. Dalibard and De Lor 
at Marly, for drawing lightning from the clouds. 1 
This engag'd the public attention every where. M. 
de Lor, who had an apparatus for experimental 
philosophy, and lectur'd in that branch of science, 
undertook to repeat what he called the Philadelphia 

Messrs. Dalibard and DeLor did not, like Franklin, employ a 
kite for their experiment, but a rod erected on a hilltop at Marly. 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 247 

Experiments; and, after they were performed be- 
fore the king and court, all the curious of Paris flocked 
to see them. I will not swell this narrative with 
an account of that capital experiment, nor of the 
infinite pleasure I receiv'd in the success of a similar 
one I made soon after with a kite at Philadelphia, 
as both are to be found in the histories of electricity. 1 
Dr. Wright, an English physician, when at Paris, 
wrote to a friend, who was of the Royal Society, an 
account of the high esteem my experiments were in 
among the learned abroad, and of their wonder that 
my writings had been so little noticed in England. 
The society, on this, resum'd the consideration of 
the letters that had been read to them; and the cele- 
brated Dr. Watson drew up a summary account of 
them, and of all I had afterwards sent to England on 
the subject, which he accompanied with some praise 
of the writer. This summary was then printed in 
their Transactions; and some members of the society 
in London, particularly the very ingenious Mr. Can- 
ton, having verified the experiment of procuring 
lightning from the clouds by a pointed rod, and ac- 
quainting them with the success, they soon made me 
more than amends for the slight with which they 
had before treated me. Without my having made any 
application for that honor, they chose me a member, 
and voted that I should be excused the customary 



1 Although, as here intimated, the experiment in question was per- 
formed by Messrs. Dalibard and DeLor a month earlier than by 
Franklin, the credit for its success belongs entirely to Franklin, 
whose directions the French scientists followed explicitly. 



248 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

payments, which would have amounted to twenty- 
five guineas; and ever since have given me their 
Transactions gratis. They also presented me with 
the gold medal of Sir Godfrey Copley 1 for the year 
1753, the delivery of which was accompanied by a 
very handsome speech of the president, Lord Mac- 
clesfield, wherein I was highly honoured. 

Our new governor, Captain Denny, brought over 
for me the before-mentioned medal from the Royal 
Society, which he presented to me at an entertain- 
ment given him by the city. He accompanied it 
with very polite expressions of his esteem for me, 
having, as he said, been long acquainted with my 
character. After dinner, when the company, as 
was customary at that time, were engag'd in drink- 
ing, he took me aside into another room, and ac- 
quainted me that he had been advis'd by his friends 
in England to cultivate a friendship with me, as one 
who was capable of giving him the best advice, and 
of contributing most effectually to the making his 
administration easy; that he therefore desired of all 
things to have a good understanding with me, and 
he begg'd me to be assur'd of his readiness on all 
occasions to render me every service that might be 
in his power. He said much to me, also, of the 
proprietor's good disposition towards the province, 
and of the advantage it might be to us all, and to 
me in particular, if the opposition that had been 

* An English baronet, who had left to the Royal Society a fund of 
money to be devoted to the award of prizes for contributions to 
the advancement of science. 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 249 

so long continued to his measures was dropt, and 
harmony restored between him and the people; in 
effecting wmich, it was thought no one could be more 
serviceable than myself; and I might depend on 
adequate acknowledgments and recompenses, etc., 
etc. The drinkers, finding we did not return imme- 
diately to the table, sent us a decanter of Madeira, which 
the governor made liberal use of, and in proportion 
became more profuse of his solicitations and promises. 
My answers were to this purpose: that my cir- 
cumstances, thanks to God, were such as to make 
proprietary favours unnecessary to me; and that, 
being a member of the Assembly, I could not possi- 
bly accept of any; that, however, I had no personal 
enmity to the proprietary, and that, whenever the 
public measures he propos'd should appear to be 
for the good of the peop'e, no one should espouse 
and forward them more zealously than myself; my 
past opposition having been founded on this, that 
the measures which had been urged were evidently 
intended to serve the proprietary interest, with great 
prejudice to that of the people; that I was much 
obliged to him (the governor) for his professions of 
regard to me, and that he might rely on every thing 
in my power to make his administration as easy as 
possible, hoping at the same time that he had not 
brought with him the same unfortunate instruction 
his predecessor had been hamper' d with. 1 

1 The Proprietors gave their Deputy-governors strict instructions 
to veto every legislative grant for the defense of the provinces which 
did not specifically exempt their own estates from taxation. 



250 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

On this he did not then explain himself; 'out 
when he afterwards came to do business with the 
Assembly, they appear' d again, the disputes were 
renewed, and I was as active as ever in the opposi- 
tion, being the penman, first, of the request to have 
a communication of the instructions, and then of 
the remarks upon them, which may be found in the 
votes of the time, and in the Historical Review I 
afterward publish' d. But between us personally 
no enmity arose; we were often together; he was a 
man of letters, had seen much of the world, and 
was very entertaining and pleasing in conversation. 
He gave me the first information that my old friend 
Jas. Ralph was still alive; that he was esteem'd one 
of the best political writers in England; had been 
employ' d in the dispute between Prince Frederic 
and the king, and had obtain' d a pension of three 
hundred a year; that his reputation was indeed small 
as a poet, Pope having damned his poetry in the 
Dunciad; but his prose was thought as good as any 
man's. 

The Assembly finally finding the proprietary ob- 
stinately persisted in manacling their deputies with 
instructions inconsistent not only with the privileges 
of the people, but with the service of the crown, re- 
sol v'd to petition the king against them, and appointed 
me their agent to go over to England, to present 
and support the petition. The House had sent up 
a bill to the governor, granting a sum of sixty thousand 
pounds for the king's use (ten thousand pounds of 
which was subjected to the orders of the then general, 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 251 

Lord Loudoun), which the governor absolutely re- 
fus'd to pass, in compliance with his instructions. 

I had agreed with Captain Morris, of the paquet 
at New York, for my passage, and my stores were 
put on board, w^hen Lord Loudoun arriv'd at Phila- 
delphia, expressly, as he told me, to endeavor an 
accommodation between the governor and Assem- 
bly, that his majesty's service might not be obstructed 
by their dissensions. Accordingly, he desir'd the 
governor and myself to meet him, that he might 
hear what was to be said on both sides. We met 
and discuss' d the business. In behalf of the Assem- 
bly, I urg'd all the various arguments that may be 
found in the public papers of that time, which were 
of my writing, and are printed with the minutes 
of the Assembly; and the governor pleaded his instruc- 
tions; the bond he had given to observe them, and 
his ruin if he disobey'd, yet seemed not unwilling 
to hazard himself if Lord Loudoun would advise it. 
This his lordship did not chuse to do, though I once 
thought I had nearly prevail' d with him to do it; 
but finally he rather chose to urge the compliance 
of the Assembly; and he entreated me to use my en- 
deavours with them for that purpose, declaring that 
he would spare none of the king's troops for the 
defense of our frontiers, and that, if we did not con- 
tinue to provide for that defense ourselves, they must 
remain expos' d to the enemy. 

I acquainted the House with what had pass'd, 
and, presenting them with a set of resolutions I had 
drawn up, declaring our rights, and that we did 



252 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

not relinquish our claim to those rights, but only 
suspended the exercise of them on this occasion 
thro' force, against which we protested, they at length 
agreed to drop that bill, and frame another conform- 
able to the proprietary instructions. This of course 
the governor pass'd, and I was then at liberty to 
proceed on my voyage. But, in the mean time, the 
paquet had sailed with my sea-stores, which was 
some loss to me, and my only recompense was his 
lordship's thanks for my service, all the credit of 
obtaining the accommodation falling to his share. 

He set out for New York before me; and, as the 
time for dispatching the paquet-boats was at his dis- 
position, and there were two then remaining there, 
one of which, he said, was to sail very soon, I re- 
quested to know the precise time, that I might not 
miss her by any delay of mine. His answer was, 
"I have given out that she is to sail on Saturday 
next; but I may let you know, entre nous, that if 
you are there by Monday morning, you will be in 
time, but do not delay longer.' ' By some accidental 
hinderance at a ferry, it was Monday noon before I 
arrived, and I was much afraid she might have sailed, 
as the wind was fair; but I was soon made easy by 
the information that she was still in the harbor, and 
would not move till the next day. One would im- 
agine that I was now on the very point of departing 
for Europe. I thought so; but I was not then so 
well acquainted with his lordship's character, of 
which indecision was one of the strongest features. I 
shall give some instances. It was about the beginning 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 253 

of April that I came to New York, and I think it 
was near the end of June before we sail'd. There 
were then two of the paquet-boats, which had been 
long in port, but were detained for the general's 
letters, which were always to be ready to-morrow. 
Another paquet arriv'd; she too was detain' d; and, 
before we sail'd, a fourth was expected. Ours was 
the first to be dispatch' d, as having been there longest. 
Passengers were engag'd in all, and some extremely 
impatient to be gone, and the merchants uneasy 
about their letters, and the orders they had given 
for insurance (it being war time) for fall goods; but 
their anxiety avail'd nothing; his lordship's letters 
were not ready; and yet whoever waited on him 
found him always at his desk, pen in hand, and con- 
cluded he must needs write abundantly. 

Going myself one morning to pay my respects, I 
found in his antechamber one Innis, a messenger of 
Philadelphia, who had come from thence express with 
a paquet from Governor Denny for the General. He 
delivered to me some letters from my friends there, 
which occasion' d my inquiring when he was to re- 
turn, and where he lodg'd, that I might send some 
letters by him. He told me was order' d to call to- 
morrow at nine for the general's answer to the gov- 
ernor, and should set off immediately. I put my letters 
into his hands the same day. A fortnight after I 
met him again in the same place. "So, you are soon 
return' d, Innis?'' " Return d! no, I am not gone 
yet." "How so?" "I have called here by order 
every morning these two weeks past for his lord- 



254 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

ship's letter, and it is not yet ready/' "Is it possible, 
when he is so great a writer? for I see him constantly 
at his escritoire." "Yes," says Innis, "but he is 
like St. George on the signs, always on horseback, 
and never rides on." This observation of the mes- 
senger was, it seems, well founded; for, when in 
England, I understood that Mr. Pitt gave it as one 
reason for removing this general, and sending Generals 
Amherst and Wolfe, that the minister never heard 
from him, and could not knoiv what he was doing. 

This daily expectation of sailing, and all the three 
paquets going down to Sandy Hook, to join the fleet 
there, the passengers thought it best to be on board, 
lest by a sudden order the ships should sail, and they 
be left behind. There, if I remember right, we were 
about six weeks, consuming our sea-stores, and oblig'd 
to procure more. At length the fleet sail'd, the 
General and all his army on board, bound to Louis- 
burg, with intent to besiege and take that fortress; 
all the paquet-boats in company ordered to attend 
the General's ship, ready to receive his dispatches 
when they should be ready. We were out five days 
before we got a letter with leave to part, and then our 
ship quitted the fleet and steered for England. The 
other two paquets he still detained, carried them with 
him to Halifax, where he stayed some time to exer- 
cise the men in sham attacks upon sham forts, then 
alter' d his mind as to besieging Louisburg, and re- 
turn' d to New York, with all his troops, together 
with the two paquets above mentioned, and all their 
passengers! During his absence the French and 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 255 

savages had taken Fort George, on the frontier of 
that province, and the savages had massacred many 
of the garrison after capitulation. 

I saw afterwards in London Captain Bonnell, who 
commanded one of those paquets. He told me that, 
when he had been detain' d a month, he acquainted 
his lordship that his ship was grown foul, to a de- 
gree that must necessarily hinder her fast sailing, a 
point of consequence for a paquet-boat, and re- 
quested an allowance of time to heave her down and 
clean her bottom. He was asked how long time that 
would require. He answer' d, three days. The general 
replied, "If you can do it in one day, I give leave; oth- 
erwise not; for you must certainly sail the day after to- 
morrow." So he never obtain' d leave, though detained 
afterwards from day to day during full three months. 

I saw also in London one of Bonnell's passengers, 
who was so enrag'd against his lordship for deceiv- 
ing and detaining him so long at New York, and 
then carrying him to Halifax and back again, that 
he swore he would sue him for damages. Whether 
he did or not, I never heard; but, as he represented 
the injury to his affairs, it was very considerable. 

On the whole, I wonder' d much how such a man 
came to be intrusted with so important a business 
as the conduct of a great army; but, having since 
seen more of the great w T orld, and the means of ob- 
taining, and motives for giving places, my wonder 
is diminished. General Shirley, on whom the com- 
mand of the army devolved upon the death of Brad- 
dock, would, in my opinion, if continued in place, 



256 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

have made a much better campaign than that of 
Loudoun in 1757, which was frivolous, expensive, 
and disgraceful to our nation beyond conception; 
for, tho' Shirley was not a bred soldier, he was sensi- 
ble and sagacious in himself, and attentive to good 
advice from others, capable of forming judicious 
plans, and quick and active in carrying them into 
execution. Loudoun, instead of defending the colonies 
with his great army, left them totally expos' d, while 
he paraded idly at Halifax, by which means Fort 
George was lost, besides, he derang'd all our mer- 
cantile operations, and distress'd our trade, by a 
long embargo on the exportation of provisions, on 
pretence of keeping supplies from being obtain' d 
by the enemy, but in reality for beating down their 
price in favor of the contractors, in whose profits, 
it was said, perhaps from suspicion only, he had a 
share. And, when at length the embargo was taken 
off, by neglecting to send notice of it to Charlestown, 
the Carolina fleet was detain' d near three months 
longer, whereby their bottoms were so much damaged 
by the worm that a great part of them foundered 
in their passage home. 

Shirley was, I believe, sincerely glad of being re- 
lieved from so burdensome a charge as the conduct 
of an army must be to a man unacquainted with 
military business. I was at the entertainment given 
by the city of New York to Lord Loudoun, on his 
taking upon him the command. Shirley, tho' thereby 
superseded, was present also. There was a great 
company of officers, citizens, and strangers, and, 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 257 

some chairs having been borrowed in the neighbor- 
hood, there was one among them very low, which 
fell to the lot of Mr. Shirley. Perceiving it as I sat 
by him, I said, "They have given you, sir, too low 
a seat." "No matter," says he, "Mr. Franklin, I 
find a low seat the easiest." 

While I was, as afore mention' d, detain 'd at New 
York, I receiv'd all the accounts of the provisions, 
etc., that I had furnish'd to Braddock, some of which 
accounts could not sooner be obtained from the dif- 
ferent persons I had employ' d to assist in the busi- 
ness. I presented them to Lord Loudoun, desiring 
to be paid the ballance. He caus'd them to be regu- 
larly examined by the proper officer, who, after com- 
paring every article with its voucher, certified them 
to be right; and the balance due for which his lord- 
ship promis'd to give me an order on the paymaster. 
This was, however, put off from time to time; and, 
tho' I calFd often for it by appointment, I did not 
get it. At length, just before my departure, he told 
me he had, on better consideration, concluded not 
to mix his accounts with those of his predecessors. 
"And you," says he, "when in England, have only 
to exhibit your accounts at the treasury, and you 
will be paid immediately." 

I mentioned, but without effect, the great and unex- 
pected expense I had been put to by being detained 
so long at New York, as a reason for my desiring to 
be presently paid; and on my observing that it was 
not right I should be put to any further trouble or 
delay in obtaining the money I had advanced, as I 



258 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

charged no commission for my service, "O, sir," 
says he, "you must not think of persuading us that 
you are no gainer; we understand better those affairs, 
and know that every one concerned in supplying 
the army finds means, in the doing it, to fill his own 
pockets/ ' I assur'd him that was not my case, and 
that I had not pocketed a farthing; but he appear'd 
clearly not to believe me; and, indeed, I have since 
learnt that immense fortunes are often made in such 
employments. As to my ballance, I am not paid 
it to this day, of which more hereafter. 

Our captain of the paquet had boasted much, be- 
fore we sailed, of the swiftness of his ship; unfor- 
tunately, when we came to sea, she proved the 
dullest of ninety-six sail, to his no small mortifica- 
tion. After many conjectures respecting the cause, 
when we were near another ship almost as dull as 
ours, which, however, gain'd upon us, the captain 
ordered all hands to come aft, and stand as near the 
ensign staff as possible. We were, passengers in- 
cluded, about forty persons. While we stood there, 
the ship mended her pace, and soon left her neigh- 
bour far behind, which prov'd clearly what our cap- 
tain suspected, that she was loaded too much by the 
head. The casks of water, it seems, had been all 
plac'd forward; these he therefore order' d to be 
mov'd further aft, on which the ship recovered her 
character, and proved the best sailer in the fleet. 

The captain said she had once gone at the rate 
of thirteen knots, which is accounted thirteen miles 
per hour. We had on board, as a passenger, Cap- 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 259 

tain Kennedy, of the Navy, who contended that 
it was impossible, and that no ship ever sailed so fast, 
and that there must have been some error in the 
division of the log-line, or some mistake in heaving 
the log. A wager ensu'd between the two captains, 
to be decided when there should be sufficient wind. 
Kennedy thereupon examined rigorously the log-line, 
and, being satisfied w T ith that, he determined to throw 
the log himself. Accordingly some days after, when 
the wind blew very fair and fresh, and the captain 
of the paquet, Lutwidge, said he belie v'd she then 
went at the rate of thirteen knots, Kennedy made 
the experiment, and own'd his wager lost. 

The above fact I give for the sake of the follow- 
ing observation. It has been remark' d, as an im- 
perfection in the art of ship-building, that it can 
never be known, till she is tried, whether a new ship 
will or will not be a good sailer; for that the model 
of a good-sailing ship has been exactly follow'd in 
a new one, which has prov'd, on the contrary, re- 
markably dull. I apprehend that this may partly 
be occasion' d by the different opinions of seamen 
respecting the modes of lading, rigging, and sailing 
of a ship; each has his system; and the same vessel, 
laden by the judgment and orders of one captain, 
shall sail better or worse than when by the orders 
of another. Besides, it scarce ever happens that 
a ship is formed, fitted for the sea, and sail'd by the 
same person. One man builds the hull, another 
rigs her, a third lades and sails her. No one of these 
has the advantage of knowing all the ideas and ex- 



260 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

perience of the others, and, therefore, can not draw 
just conclusions from a combination of the whole. 

Even in the simple operation of sailing when at 
sea, I have often observ'd different judgments in the 
officers who commanded the successive watches, the 
wind being the same. One would have the sails 
trimm'd sharper or flatter than another, so that they 
seem'd to have no certain rule to govern by. Yet 
I think a set of experiments might be instituted, 
first, to determine the most proper form of the hull 
for swift sailing; next, the best dimensions and prop- 
erest place for the masts; then the form and quan- 
tity of sails, and their position, as the wind may be; 
and, lastly, the disposition of the lading. This is an 
age of experiments, and I think a set accurately 
made and combin'd would be of great use. I am 
persuaded, therefore, that ere long some ingenious 
philosopher will undertake it, to whom I wish success. 

We were several times chas'd in our passage, but 
outsail' d every thing, and in thirty days had sound- 
ings. We had a good observation, and the captain 
judg'd himself so near our port, Falmouth, that, if 
we made a good run in the night, we might be off 
the mouth of that harbor in the morning, and by 
running in the night might escape the notice of the 
enemy's privateers, who often cruis'd near the en- 
trance of the channel. Accordingly, all the sail 
was set that w r e could possibly make, and the w r ind 
being very fresh and fair, we went right before it, 
and made great w r ay. The captain, after his ob- 
servation, shap'd his course, as he thought, so as to 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 261 

pass wide of the Scilly Isles; but it seems there is 
sometimes a strong indraught setting up St. George's 
Channel, which deceives seamen and caused the loss 
of Sir Cloudesley Shovel's squadron. This indraught 
was probably the cause of what happened to us. 

We had a watchman plac'd in the bow, to whom 
they often called, "Look well out before there," and he 
as often answered, "Ay, ay;" but perhaps had his 
eyes shut, and was half asleep at the time, they some- 
times answering, as is said, mechanically; for he did 
not see a light just before us, which had been hid 
by the studding-sails from the man at the helm, and 
from the rest of the watch, but by an accidental 
yaw of the ship was discover' d, and occasion' d a 
great alarm, we being very near it, the light appear- 
ing to me as big as a cart-wheel. It was midnight, 
and our captain fast asleep; but Captain Kennedy, 
jumping upon deck, and seeing the danger, ordered 
the ship to wear round, all sails standing; an opera- 
tion dangerous to the masts, but it carried us clear, 
and we escaped shipwreck, for we were running 
right upon the rocks on which the light-house was 
erected. This deliverance impressed me strongly 
with the utility of light-houses, and made me resolve 
to encourage the building more of them in America, 
if I should live to return there. 

In the morning it was found by the soundings, etc., 
that we were near our port, but a thick fog hid the 
land from our sight. About nine o'clock the fog 
began to rise, and seem'd to be lifted up from the 
water like the curtain at a play-house, discovering 



262 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

underneath, the town of Falmouth, the vessels in its 
harbor, and the fields that surrounded it. This was 
a most pleasing spectacle to those who had been so 
long without any other prospects than the uniform 
view of a vacant ocean, and it gave us the more pleas- 
ure as we were now free from the anxieties which 
the state of war occasion'd. 

I set out immediately, with my son, for London, 
and we only stopt a little by the way to view 
Stonehenge 1 on Salisbury Plain, and Lord Pem- 
broke's house and gardens, with his very curious 
antiquities at Wilton. We arrived in London the 
27th of July, 1757. 2 

As soon as I was settled in a lodging Mr. Charles 
had provided for me, I went to visit Dr. Fothergill, 
to whom I was strongly recommended, and whose 
counsel respecting my proceedings I was advis'd 
to obtain. He was against an immediate complaint 
to government, and thought the proprietaries should 
first be personally appli'd to, who might possibly be 
induc'd by the interposition and persuasion of some 
private friends, to accommodate matters amicably. 
I then waited on my old friend and correspondent, 
Mr. Peter Collinson, who told me that John Han- 

1 The remains of a prehistoric but presumably Celtic temple on a 
hilltop eight miles north of Salisbury. 

2 At this point the third portion of the Autobiography, written by 
Franklin in 1788, ends. The next few pages were added in 1789, a 
few months before his death. As already stated (p. 151), this third 
portion concludes the Autobiography as printed by William Temple 
Franklin, the fourth portion not having been printed until 1868, the 
year of Mr. Bigelow's edition of the complete autograph. 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 263 

bury, the great Virginia merchant, had requested 
to be informed when I should arrive, that he might 
carry me to Lord Granville's, who was then Presi- 
dent of the Council 1 and wished to see me as soon 
as possible. I agreed to go with him the next morn- 
ing. Accordingly Mr. Hanbury called for me and 
took me in his carriage to that nobleman's, who 
received me with great civility; and after some ques- 
tions respecting the present state of affairs in America 
and discourse thereupon, he said to me: "You Ameri- 
cans have wrong ideas of the nature of your consti- 
tution; you contend that the king's instructions to 
his governors are not laws, and think yourselves 
at liberty to regard or disregard them at your own 
discretion. But those instructions are not like the 
pocket instructions given to a minister going abroad, 
for regulating his conduct in some trifling point of 
ceremony. They are first drawn up by judges learned 
in the laws; they are then considered, debated, and 
perhaps amended in Council, after which they are 
signed by the king. They are then, so far as they 
relate to you, the law of the land, for the king is the 
Legislator of the Colonies." I told his lord- 
ship this was new doctrine to me. I had always 
understood from our charters that our laws were 
to be made by our Assemblies, to be presented in- 
deed to the king for his royal assent, but that being 
once given the king could not repeal or alter them. 

1 That is, President of the Privy Council of Trades and Plantations. 
In 1784 a Committee of the Privy Council succeeded to the duties of 
the earlier Board of Trade and Plantations. 



264 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

And as the Assemblies could not make permanent 
laws without his assent, so neither could he make 
a law for them without theirs. He assur'd me I 
was totally mistaken. I did not think so, however, 
and his lordship's conversation having a little alarm* d 
me as to what might be the sentiments of the court 
concerning us, I wrote it down as soon as Ireturn'd 
to my lodgings. I recollected that about 20 years 
before, a clause in a bill brought into Parliament 
by the ministry had propos'd to make the king's 
instructions laws in the colonies, but the clause was 
thrown out by the Commons, for which we adored 
them as our friends and friends of liberty, till by their 
conduct towards us in 1765 1 it seem'd that they had 
refus'd that point of sovereignty to the king only 
that they might reserve it for themselves. 

After some days, Dr. Fothergill having spoken to 
the proprietaries, they agreed to a meeting with me 
at Mr. T. Penn's house in Spring Garden. The 
conversation at first consisted of mutual declarations 
of disposition to reasonable accommodations, but I 
suppose each party had its own ideas of what should 
be meant by reasonable. We then went into con- 
sideration of our several points of complaint, which 
I enumerated. The proprietaries justify 1 d their con- 
duct as well as they could, and I the Assembly's. 
We now appeared very wide, and so far from each 
other in our opinions as to discourage all hope of 
agreement. However, it was concluded that I should 
give them the heads of our complaints in writing, 

1 The year of the passage of the obnoxious Stamp Act. 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 265 

and they promis'd then to consider them. I did 
so soon after, but they put the paper into the hands . 
of their solicitor, Ferdinand John Paris, who managed 
for them all their law business in their great suit 
with the neighbouring proprietary of Maryland, 
Lord Baltimore, which had subsisted 70 years, and 
wrote for them all their papers and messages in their 
dispute with the Assembly. He was a proud, angry 
man, and as I had occasionally in the answers of 
the Assembly treated his papers with some severity, 
they being really weak in point, of argument and 
haughty in expression, he had conceived a mortal 
enmity to me, which discovering itself whenever 
we met, I declin'd the proprietary's proposal that 
he and I should discuss the heads of complaint be- 
tween our two selves, and refused treating with any 
one but them. They then by his advice put the 
paper into the hands of the Attorney and Solicitor- 
General for their opinion and counsel upon it, where 
it lay unanswered a year wanting eight days, during 
which time I made frequent demands of an answer 
from the proprietaries, but without obtaining any 
other than that they had not yet received the opinion 
of the Attorney and Solicitor-General. What it was 
when they did receive it I never learnt, for they 
did not communicate it to me, but sent a long mes- 
sage to the Assembly drawn and signed by Paris, 
reciting my paper, complaining of its want of form- 
ality, as a rudeness on my part, and giving a flimsy 
justification of their conduct, adding that they should 
be willing to accommodate matters if the Assembly 



266 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

would send out some person of candour to treat with 
them for that purpose, intimating thereby that I w T as 
not such. 

The want of formality or rudeness was, probably, 
my not having address' d the paper to them with 
their assum'd titles of True and Absolute Proprie- 
taries of the Province of Pennsylvania, which I omitted 
as not thinking it necessary in a paper, the intention 
of which was only to reduce to a certainty by writing, 
what in conversation I had delivered viva voce. 

But during this delay, the Assembly having pre- 
vailed with Gov'r Denny to pass an act taxing the 
proprietary estate in common with the estates of 
the people, which was the grand point in dispute, 
they omitted answering the message. 

When this act however came over, the proprietaries, 
counselled by Paris, determined to oppose its receiv- 
ing the royal assent. Accordingly they petition 'd 
the king in Council, and a hearing was appointed 
in which two lawyers were employ' d by them against 
the act, and two by me in support of it. They alledg'd 
that the act was intended to load the proprietary estate 
in order to spare those of the people, and that if it 
were suffer' d to continue in force, and the proprieta- 
ries who were in odium with the people, left to their 
mercy in proportioning the taxes, they would inevit- 
ably be ruined. We reply' d that the act had no 
such intention, and would have no such effect. That 
the assessors were honest and discreet men under 
an oath to assess fairly and equitably, and that any 
advantage each of them might expect in lessening 



OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 267 

his own tax by augmenting that of the proprietaries 
was too trifling to induce them to perjure themselves. 
This is the purport of what I remember as urged 
by both sides, except that we insisted strongly on 
the mischievous consequences that must attend a 
repeal, for that the money, £100,000, being printed 
and given to the king's use, expended in his service, 
and now spread among the people, the repeal would 
strike it dead in their hands to the ruin of many, and 
the total discouragement of future grants, and the self- 
ishness of the proprietors in soliciting such a general 
catastrophe, merely from a groundless fear of their estate 
being taxed too highly, was insisted on in the strongest 
terms. On this, Lord Mansfield, one of the counsel 
rose, and beckoning me took me into the clerk's 
chamber, while the lawyers were pleading, and asked 
me if I was really of opinion that no injury would 
be done the proprietary estate in the execution of 
the act. I said certainly. "Then," says he, "you 
can have little objection to enter into an engage- 
ment to assure that point." I answered, "None 
at all." He then call'd in Paris, and after some 
discourse, his lordship's proposition was accepted 
on both sides; a paper to the purpose was drawn 
up by the Clerk of the Council, which I sign'd with 
Mr. Charles, who was also an Agent of the Province 
for their ordinary affairs, when Lord Mansfield 
returned to the Council Chamber, where finally 
the law was allowed to pass. Some changes were 
however recommended and we also engaged they 
should be made by a subsequent law, but the Assembly 



268 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

did* not think them necessary; for one year's tax 
having been levied by the act before the order of 
Council arrived, they appointed a committee to 
examine the proceedings of the assessors, and on 
this committee they put several particular friends of 
the proprietaries. After a full enquiry, they unani- 
mously sign'd a report that they found the tax had 
been assess' d with perfect equity. 

The Assembly looked into my entering into the 
first part of the engagement, as an essential service 
to the Province, since it secured the credit of the 
paper money then spread over all the country. They 
gave me their thanks in form when I return' d. But 
the proprietaries were enraged at Governor Denny 
for having pass'd the act, and turn'd him out with 
threats of suing him for breach of instructions which 
he had given bond to observe. He, however, having 
done it at the instance of the General, and for His 
Majesty's service, and having some powerful interest 
at court, despis'd the threats and they were never 
put in execution. 



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